“Indiana’s next blast of winter weather is upon us,” note Indiana State Police leaders at the Indianapolis headquarters. Warnings about hazardous driving conditions will be issued by city, county and state law enforcement as well as by local and national media.
Many will heed the warnings. Many more will ignore the warnings. With another major storm approaching, the Indiana State Police, again, remind motorists to limit travel when possible. If travel is not necessary, then stay home. Most calls for service received by ISP and other police agencies during winter storms are for crashes and motorists who slide off state roads and interstates. It is important to remember that snow and ice covered roads do not cause crashes. The crashes are caused by unsafe driving on the snow and ice covered roads.
If you choose to drive during poor or hazardous driving conditions you must:
1. Leave sooner and expect your travel time to be twice as long as normal
2. Drive slower
3. Increase the following distance between you and the vehicle in front of you by at least five times greater than normal
4. Approach intersections with great care; other drivers not paying attention will slide through red lights
5. Signal all lane changes and turning movements.
The posted speed limit may be more than twice as fast as the reduced speed drivers should travel to reduce the possibility of a collision or loss of control that puts a vehicle into a retaining wall, ditch or another motorist. Indiana code 9-21-5-1 specifies, “Speed shall be restricted as necessary to avoid colliding with a person, vehicle or other conveyance on, near or entering a highway.” A motorist losing control of a vehicle or who is involved in a crash resulting in a police report should expect to be cited for this offense, which carries a maximum fine of $500.
Authorities advise, “If you are involved in a crash, are uninjured and all vehicles are drivable, involved drivers should move to a safe place completely off the road, be it the next exit or to the parking lot of a business to await law enforcement response for a police report. It is important to remember crashes involving injury or lane blockage receive priority attention ahead of property damage crashes. So, keep in mind, it may be an extended period of time before law enforcement arrives. The reason and purpose for moving drivable vehicles off the road is to avoid secondary crashes of other inattentive motorists crashing into your scene or sideswiping you if you’ve only moved to the side of the road.”
Something else to keep in mind: Crash scenes with vehicles disabled in the roadway and state police presence may have the police vehicle facing the wrong way with emergency lights and headlights on. This is to warn approaching motorists of impending danger.
Remember, Indiana’s Move Over Law states motorists must change lanes away from the emergency or utility vehicle if they can do it safely. If not possible to move away from the emergency vehicle, motorists must slow down and proceed with caution.
Vehicles included in the Move Over Law are police vehicles, ambulances, fire trucks and rescue equipment, highway incident-response and work vehicles (including snow plows) and tow trucks.
The point of not calling police agencies for road information during snow emergencies cannot be overstressed. Calling police departments about road conditions may delay action on critical life emergency 911 calls. Road conditions are likely the same for the area you want to know about as it is looking out a front window.
Citizens calling state police facilities to ask for road conditions will be directed to either call the Indiana Department of Transportation’s Road and Weather automated system at 800-262-7623 or visit the INDOT traffic map at http://indot.carsprogram.org/main.jsf. The 800 phone service is voice activated and updated with timely road conditions across Indiana. The INDOT Web link allows users to check on specific locations for current closures and other road information.
For Indiana County Travel Status Reports, persons may visit www.in.gov/dhs/traveladvisory.