WV State Police Sergeant Barlow Offers Winter Driving Safety Tips
To help you prepare for winter driving, we talked with Sergeant Fred H. Barlow of the Troop 3, Marlinton detachment, WV State Police about any suggestions he has to help you travel safely this time of year. Sgt. Barlow.
“First thing we need to talk about is to just leave early, slow down” said Sgt. Barlow. “If you have to travel, it’s fine but leave early enough to where you have plenty of time if you do have issues along the way. And make sure you’re prepared to travel and have your vehicle properly maintained as far as winter travel. Make sure you’ve got good snow tires, good wipers , plenty of fuel . Have some sort of emergency kit in the vehicle.”
Sgt. Barlow provided a few suggestions for things to have in an emergency kit.
“A wool blanket, heavy duty trash bags to cover yourself up with –you can use them for a multitude of things” Barlow suggested. “If you have a window broken out you can cover the window with a trash bag. Keep some sort of food –peanuts, granola, trail mix – just something to keep your energy level up. And water, studies have shown water is better for you than caffeine especially if you’re dehydrated you need to be drinking water. But the main thing is to slow down and to leave early enough to where you don’t need to push yourself. If you start to feel uncomfortable you probably need to stop of turn around and go back.”
Sgt Barlow suggested that following the vehicle in front of you too closely is even more dangerous in snow or rain and you need to leave more space between you then normal.
“You’re supposed to leave a two second rule on normal driving conditions” said Barlow. “You need to double or even triple your driving space if we have weather.”
Make sure you use your headlights.
“Whether it be rain or snow, you turn your lights on” said Barlow. “Don’t rely solely on your driving lights because the driving lights just illuminate to the front and if you don’t turn on your (head) lights, you’re not having any lights to your rear.”
Sgt Barlow offers some important advice in case you do get stuck.
“If you do get stuck, don’t leave your vehicle in the middle of the road abandoned” Barlow said. “So many times people just leave it where it stops. If you have to exit your vehicle, put your emergency flashers on. If you have warning triangles (or) safety flairs, set them out and go get help at that point. But if you can in any way get the vehicle as far off the roadway to the right as possible to where someone doesn’t come up behind it and accidently rear end your vehicle.”
I asked Sgt. Barlow why it is important it is to stay way back behind snow plows.
“The plows are throwing debris, there could be rocks in the snow that are covered up with snow that could get hit by the plow” Barlow says. “I believe it says stay back 100 feet from the snow plow on the back of the trucks but once they’re out plowing you can’t see that sign anymore. So if you do come up on it, make sure you stay back a good ways to where they’re not throwing the cinders on your vehicle that could possibly break your window out. And don’t assume that if they have their signal light on they want you to come around, because I worked an accident last week. A vehicle was following a tractor and trailer on snow covered roads. The tractor and trailer put on its left hand turn signal. The driver behind the tractor assumed that they wanted him to come around. The tractor and trailer was actually turning off onto another road and they had a collision, so don’t assume, just pay attention.”
Sgt Barlow provides us with good advice to follow no matter what the weather if you should come up on a police officer making a traffic stop on the side of the road, or for that matter, any emergency vehicle pulled off to the side of the road displaying emergency lights.
“If you see an officer conducting a traffic stop or something, pay attention as you go by” suggests Sgt. Barlow. “If it looks normal, it’s fine to keep going by. If you see there’s an altercation or something, you may want to pull ahead to a safer area and come back and ask if something is needed, but for the most part, just pay attention to what’s going on, you may see something that could help the officer or possibly help the suspect. Don’t be videotaping as you’re driving by with your cell phone.”
Sgt Barlow also suggests that anytime you come up to any area where police, Fire Department or State Roads are directing traffic; you should turn down your stereo and open your window so you can hear any instructions they might need to give you.
Sgt Barlow also warned about the dangers of carbon monoxide. If you are stuck in snow and need to run the vehicle’s heater, make sure you crack a window a few inches and step out of the vehicle occasionally to get fresh air.
As a final piece of advice, Sgt Barlow says that if you do plan to travel and be waay from home for a few days; don’t announce that on social media, as burglars lurk on those sites just looking to see when homes will be vacant.
He ended our interview with the suggestion that we all look out for our neighbors and for their homes when they are away.