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MSHP offers winter safety tips

Missouri weather can be unpredictable so it’s best to be prepared for any circumstance this winter.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Spokesperson Cpl. Juston Wheetley said in Missouri no one really knows when winter weather will strike. Winter precipitation can appear and disappear from the forecast just as quickly. 

“It can reappear just as fast and hit unexpectedly,” said Wheetley. “We recommend that this is the time to go out and get your vehicle prepared. If you don’t feel comfortable with working on your vehicle to ensure it’s ready for winter, take it to a local mechanic.”

Wheetley highly recommends having tires checked for not only the treads, but the air pressure as well.

“Check the windshield wipers and make sure windshield fluid reservoir is filled,” said Wheetley. “We also recommend always keeping an ice scraper in your vehicle and gloves to clean off your windshield.”

Wheetley added people should not drive their vehicle with what they call the “porthole effect”.

“That is when people defrost off a little spot and they are steering out of it,” Wheetley explained. “Their visibility of the roadway is hampered by that. Not only is it illegal, it is very dangerous.”

He also recommends packing a travel bag to keep in the vehicle in case they are stranded somewhere where it is cold. Suggested items to pack in the bag are hand warmers, an extra blanket, some non-perishable items such as granola bars and some bottled water.

“If winter does strike and you find yourself stranded, it could be awhile before we can get to you,” said Wheetley. “So you need to be sure you will be comfortable until we can reach you. It’s just as hard for us to get around as it is for everyone else.”

Wheetley said the vehicles they use are nothing special and they are exactly what others use on the road.

“If you would have a difficulty while driving, we will have to reduce our speeds as well when responding to these calls,” Wheetley said. “It could take a while for us to get to where the people are stranded.”

Wheetley said to remember while driving on ice-covered roadways that no one can travel on icy slick roadways the same way one would on dry pavement.

“If the speed says 60 mph, that does not mean that is a safe speed to travel in inclement weather conditions,” Wheetley said. “You must reduce your speed and travel at a speed that is safe and reasonable for the environment that you are traveling in at that time.”

He said they also want to remind people as well if they do find themselves in a traffic crash and they are off the roadway to stay in their vehicle.

“If you are struggling driving that area, others who are passing through there may as well struggle in those conditions, so stay inside your vehicle and contact authorities,” Wheetley said. “Do not try to get out in case others lose control and strike you while you’re outside the vehicle. Stay inside the vehicle where it is much safer there than it is outside.”

Wheetley said he always recommends during this time of year to check weather reports daily before going out or at least check the night before, so you have a better idea of what to expect for the next day.

“Everyone knows in Missouri weather changes within hours or minutes of each other,” said Wheetley. “We can see all four seasons in one day, so we recommend checking out the weather to ensure you know what to expect. Also allow yourself plenty of time to get to where you are going safely or to possibly adjust your day accordingly to not travel on the days they are predicting severe winter weather.”

Wheetley said they want to get people to drive responsibly and intelligently when the first snow storms hit. Typically the first couple of snows is when they see the most traffic crashes and fatalities as a result.

“It seems people forget year to year how to navigate these roadways and they want to travel at speeds they are used to in the summer,” said Wheetley. “That is what gets people into trouble.”

Wheetley also stressed that parents may want to take into consideration talking to their children or new drivers they have in their household if this will be their first winter that they may experience winter roadways.

“Help educate them on how to drive or at least take them out the first few times we have winter weather,” said Wheetley. “Be there with them as they travel on these roadways to help give them advice and experience before letting them out on their own.”

Wheetley recommends that drivers use care by increasing the following distance while driving and to consider if the speed their traveling is safe for the weather conditions. He stressed to slow down when driving in snow or on ice.

“With four-wheel drive vehicles, the bigger and heavier the vehicle, the longer distance it is going to take to stop it,” said Wheetley. “Just because you have a four wheel drive and you can go better, it’s going to take you a lot longer of a distance to stop than it would for somebody who is in a little two-wheel drive car.”

The Missouri State Highway Patrol emergency number is 1-800-525-5555 (or *55 on a cellular phone). These numbers ring at the nearest troop headquarters.

MSHP encourages motorists to be prepared for any kind of weather. 

MSHP encourages motorists to be prepared for any kind of weather. 

Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or rbronaugh@dailyjournalonline.com

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