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Best defense is a good offense

Washington State Patrol officials urge drivers to inspect their cars in  preparation for winter driving.  - Courtesy photo 2006
Washington State Patrol officials urge drivers to inspect their cars in preparation for winter driving.
— image credit: Courtesy photo 2006

By RACHEL BRANT

Staff writer

It’s time to dust off the heavy coats, gloves and ice scrapers.

Winter is creeping around the corner and the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), Washington State Patrol (WSP) and Kitsap County Public Works want motorists to be prepared for treacherous driving conditions.

WSP reminds drivers that speed limits on public roadways are set for ideal road and weather conditions, so when the roads get icy, drivers may need to slow down and increase their following distances.

Deputy Scott Wilson, KCSO spokesman, said black ice is a big problem when it comes to winter driving. Morning commute hours are when it is iciest and overpasses, bridges and areas that receive little sunlight will be the first to freeze.

“When black ice hits and roads freeze, people aren’t prepared for it and really don’t think about it until they are sliding,” Wilson said. “We’re going to start seeing black ice on the roadways.”

Kitsap County Public Works crews began working around the clock Nov. 1. Public Works Spokesman Doug Bear said there are now crews on-shift 24 hours a day to plow, scrap and throw sand on the roadways of Kitsap County. Bear said it is difficult to tell how hard winter will hit Kitsap County this year, but the department is prepared for the worst.

“We’re in a pretty unique geographical area,” he said.

While driving on icy or snow-covered roadways, motorists should increase their following distances, avoid unnecessary lane changes and drive with vehicle lights on to increase visibility, according to KCSO. Drivers also should warm their vehicles prior to driving, allow windows to properly defrost and keep the fuel tank at least half full. If a motorist cannot continue driving due to poor road conditions, he or she should attempt to move the vehicle off of the roadway, according to KCSO. If a motorist is in a traffic collision, Wilson said people should stay inside their vehicles until help arrives.

KCSO and WSP officials said drivers should inspect their vehicles or have a certified technician take a look to ensure it is ready to take on the snow and ice of winter.

A good set of tires is crucial in tackling winter weather, according to a WSP news release. Snow or all-season radial tires are highly encouraged and sufficient tread depth is important. Tires also should be properly inflated and tire pressure should be checked and monitored often. As of Nov. 1, studded snow tires also are legal throughout the state.

Motorists should consider carrying additional equipment in their vehicles during the winter including tire chains, a shovel, first aid supplies, gloves, jumper cables, a tow strap, flashlight, ice scraper and a bag of sand or cat litter to use for traction, according to WSP and KCSO.

KCSO officials encourage motorists to plan for the unexpected during winter driving conditions. In the event drivers are stranded on a roadway, people should carry warm clothing or blankets and keep non-perishable food and water in their vehicles. Emergency phone numbers and a cellular phone also are handy in case an emergency arises.

WSP, KCSO and Public Works staff all said the most important tip for winter driving is to check the road reports before hitting the streets. People can call (800) 695-ROAD (or 511 from cellular phones) for the current road conditions and (800) 84-FERRY for Washington State Ferries information. Motorists also can log on the Washington Department of Transportation’s Web site, www.wsdot.wa.gov, or sign up for Kitsap County Public Works’s road report. The road report can be found at www.kitsapgov.com/pw/roadwork.htm and people can sign up to have the weekly report e-mailed to them.

“It’s a very helpful tool,” Bear said.

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