Tahlequah Daily Press

February 5, 2014

When there’s ice on the road, slow down – and stay home if you can


TAHLEQUAH — It may be a couple more months before reliably decent weather returns to Cherokee County, and for many of us, it can’t happen soon enough.

But since we have no control over Mother Nature, the best we can do is adjust our schedules and habits to conform to its quirks. That means when ice and snow are on the streets and highways as they’ve been this week, drivers have to slow down, keep an eye on fellow travelers, and make sure their vehicles are equipped to handle the hazard.

Historically, Oklahoma drivers have logged some of the worst records in the nation. This means we often pay higher premiums than residents of other states. It’s not because we’re stupid or especially aggressive on the roads, but some of us do tend to overestimate our ability to handle inclement weather conditions, and therefore we drive too fast. We also tend to tailgate.

That’s not the only trouble. Our streets and highways aren’t in as good a condition as those in some other states that typically get ice and snow, and our smaller cities don’t have the equipment to adequately clear the streets. Since most of our winters are mild, and many of us have modest incomes, we tend to delay buying new tires even when the ones we have are nearly bald. And we no longer have to submit to annual vehicle inspections, which means some of our vehicles are in disrepair.

But we owe it to ourselves, and our fellow Cherokee Countians, to take extra precautions on the road – especially during a winter like this one, which is bringing us more ice and snow than we typically have. The street and highway departments can only do so much; the rest is up to us.

Keep your vehicles and tires in good condition, even if you have to eat ramen noodles for a while to afford it. Make sure your insurance is paid in full, and it’s a good idea to have uninsured motorist coverage. Keep blankets, a flashlight, a first aid kit and maybe even some snacks in your vehicle, in case you break down and get stranded.

Leave early if you have somewhere to go – and if you don’t, stay home. Slow down, and drive defensively. Begin braking well before you think you have to. If you start skidding, turn your steering wheel into the slide. Make sure your kids understand crossing the street requires extra vigilance.

Yes, it’s inconvenient, and maybe more expensive. But remember, even a fender-bender can give your insurance company an excuse to send your premiums sky-high. Worse yet, you could lose your life, or take someone else’s. Impatience and carelessness just aren’t worth the price you may pay.