Have a plan BEFORE the road hazard happens

WHITE MOUNTAINS — During times of inclement weather such as wind, rain, snow and ice, it’s important to be a vigilant driver by reducing distractions.

“Impairment, fatigue and distracted driving can lead to deadly consequences,” reminds Arizona Department of Public Safety Public Information Officer Raul Garcia. Simply put, “Distracted driving kills,” he adds.

“Driving distracted will prevent you from identifying hazards along the roadway,” explains Garcia. “There is an infinite list of hazards; so let’s narrow the scope to driver responsibility: Every driver should CONSTANTLY monitor their surroundings through the windows and mirrors. There truly should not be any surprises to the driver.”

The only exception would be mechanical failure said Garcia and it is also important for drivers to have a hazard evasion plan. “That plan will vary on driver experience, discretion, vehicle capability and the type of hazard,” he adds. “Planning in such manner can afford the driver with more time and distance to react to the hazard.”

“Distracted driving has become just as serious as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” according to the American Safety Council. “Although distracted driving is most commonly associated with texting and cell phone calls, it can involve anything from eating, applying makeup, or being emotionally distraught behind the wheel.”

Getting caught off-guard

Experts like Garcia warn that “It is when a driver does not have a hazard evasion plan and is caught off-guard, that it can lead to a collision.”

The time to formulate an escape plan is long before the drive; not when confronted by a hazard.

“Taking your eyes away from the road for just five seconds while driving 55 mph is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed,” also says the American Safety Council.

Animals and wildlife

Animals regularly cross roadways to drink from streams and lakes. Also, roadway signs warn drivers of animal crossing.

“During the winter months with heavy snowfall events, deer and elk will move long distances to lower elevations to get to areas with available forage,” says Arizona Game & Fish Department Pinetop Region Game Specialist Rick Langley. “Drivers need to be extra alert when traveling, especially at night, for elk and mule deer crossing our roadways … give yourself plenty of room to brake, steer and avoid them,” stresses Langley.

The Arizona Department of Transportation also warns drivers to “be aware and look out for wildlife when traveling in the high country,” adding that “… each year more than 80 percent of animal-related crashes are with wildlife and 86 percent of crashes involving animals occur in rural areas.”

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Laura Singleton is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering Show Low city government, business and education.

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