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January 13, 2012


Proper preparation can make winter driving safer for motorists

Motorists should prepare for the expected hazards, such as snow and cold conditions that can lead to icy roads, low visibility and extended commuting times.

Because most Fort McCoy employees live off post, they likely will have to deal with traveling on roads during less-than-ideal driving conditions, said Randy Eddy, Fort McCoy Installation Safety Office (ISO) safety manager. Installation employees have many resources available to help them travel safely during the winter months.
PHOTO: Patrons inspect a vehichle at the Fort McCoy Automotive Skills Center. Photo by Rob Schuette
Sgt. 1st Class Branden Harland checks the front ball joints of a vehicle’s suspension at the Fort McCoy Automotive Skills Center. Also observing the work are Don Fisher (left) and Matt Winchell. (Photo by Rob Schuette)

Preparing a winter preparedness kit will help take the surprise out of any emergency. The kit should include such things as an ice scraper/snow brush combination, small shovel, sand, salt or kitty litter for traction, a tow rope or chain, blankets, winter clothing, flashlights, jumper cables, first-aid kit, road flares or reflectors and fire extinguishers.

Another good idea is to give vehicles a thorough tune-up. This includes checking tires, oil grade, coolant antifreeze, battery, heater system, hoses and connections, and belts. Air, oil and gas filters, as well as PCV valves, should be replaced, if necessary. Wiper blades also should be replaced if they display wear and cracks. The Fort McCoy Automotive Skills Center, building 1763, can support authorized personnel to do some of this work. The facility is open Thursdays-Mondays. For more information, including hours, call 608-388-3013.

Preparing a mental checklist also is important, according to the ISO and Directorate of Emergency Services.

Check weather reports and road conditions before leaving on a trip. Wisconsin road (winter driving) conditions are available at the website http://www.511wi.gov/Web. Wisconsin winter weather driving condition information also is available by text messaging or by calling 511 from a phone with long-distance capabilities.

Drivers also should never drink and drive. Always have a designated driver or refrain from drinking. Wearing seatbelts and properly securing children in child safety seats also is one of the best defenses against drunk drivers. Never ride in a vehicle with a drunk driver.

If motorists encounter a drunk driver, they should keep a safe distance from that driver and never attempt a personal intervention. Instead, they immediately should report drunk drivers to area law enforcement by providing the license plate number, description of the vehicle, and the direction in which the vehicle is traveling. When using cell phones, drivers should use either hands-free models or pull over onto the shoulder of the road or into a parking lot.

In parking lots, motorists should travel slowly, drive defensively and be patient, Eddy said. They should be cautious and watch for illuminated taillights to indicate vehicles backing out of a parking space/stall.

Having good visibility is a key to safe winter driving. Windows, headlights and mirrors should be kept free of snow. Maintaining good visibility can help motorists avoid or, at least, slow down when encountering potential hazardous areas, such as a curve or bridge.

Traffic obstacles/hazards caused by inclement weather often can be avoided by delaying travel, when possible. The trips can be made at a later, more-convenient time when weather conditions may improve.

For more information about safety in the Fort McCoy community, call 608-388-3403 or visit the Safety Section on the Fort McCoy Extranet, which is accessible through the Fort McCoy Corporate Network or from the public website www.mccoy.army.mil with the use of a common access card.

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