Slow Down and Stay Focused

By Peter Van Eck

This happened to me

Roughly two years ago when going out to the field for a few weeks in February 2021, the
roads were icy and it was pouring down rain and hail. We left at about 4 am, and it was a 2
hour drive. At first, everything seemed fine. Nothing was out of the ordinary. I fell asleep on
the ride as I usually had so many times before, and it all went according to plan. However,
the wind and snow began to hit a little bit harder, and we hit some bumps causing me to
wake up. I thought this was no big issue, but the next few minutes would be tragic.

One of the drivers up front made an abrupt stop in the ice which in turn caused the 5 buses to
collide with each other, crushing the middle two buses, killing 1 driver, and putting many
others in the hospital for severe injuries and spinal injuries. I was not hurt in the crash
other than a little bit of whiplash. I can still feel the breeze of the icy air pushing against
my face and how everything got so quiet, with hairs standing up all around my body. I
feel that if the drivers had just remained attentive and gone a bit slower because of the
ice, then maybe the crash wouldn’t have been so dramatic if it even happened at all.

My story is not unique, here’s the problem

Whether we like it or not, many people have to drive in unfavorable weather. Whether it
be going to work, classes, the store, or any other event, driving is and forever will be a
part of our culture. According to Safeatlast.co, in the US alone, more than 38,000 people
die in car accidents per year. This number may not seem like much, but this number
should not be anywhere near what it is, and it does not even include the other 194 countries
in the world. The article on safeatlast.co also states that weather-related road crashes account
for about 5,376 fatalities and over 418,000 injuries annually. 70% of cases occur on wet
roads and 46% while raining.

Driving in inclement weather is a very common problem,
especially for those who have no training in certain climates. For example, a person who
lived in CA for their whole life and then moved up to Michigan would be hard because of the
snow. Although driving in inclement weather can be devastating, it can be easily
countered by just slowing down and paying more attention to the road. Everyone who
drives often has experienced bad weather, and we have all seen news articles and videos
on some of the worst crashes due to weather. This problem can be easily fixed by states
requiring a minimum of 10 hours driving in the rain, snow, black ice, and by reducing
speed limits before and during the holidays. Here is one from 4 years ago that most
people will recognize. (1018) Deadly 70-car pileup in Iowa caught on camera – YouTube

Here is a non-profit working to help solve the problem

DRIVE SMART Virginia (drivesmartva.org) This is a nonprofit for car crashes in
general and can relate to weather easily. This group provides information on car safety
and has many links within the article to easily navigate the page. In this non-profit article, they have a great number of catch slogans in the holiday driving tips section that will help drivers navigate through the harsh weather and avoid distracted driving. This article gives a lot of important information to help everyone be safe during the holidays
and inclement weather. The article also states facts such as checking your tires tread depth
before going out in the snow and/or rain, adding winter-rated wiper fluid, checking tire
pressures (tire pressure drops as temperature drops), and much more. This nonprofit
organization also has their very own blog where they have a great number of tragic
stories and experiences from our peers. Like most non-profit organizations, they have an
easily accessible donation page and clear contact information for any problems or
questions one may have.

Here’s what you can do to help right now.

Right now, you can help the problem by simply just slowing down and paying more
attention when there is inclement weather. Another thing you can do is encourage others
to check out https://www.nhtsa.gov/winter-driving-safety or any of the other links below
before the holidays come. If you take anything from this article with you, just
remember wherever you need to go is not important enough to risk your life and
the lives of others.

○ Winter Driving Safety | NHTSA
○ Top Causes of Car Accidents: The 25 Leading Causes of Road Accidents
○ (1018) Deadly 70-car pileup in Iowa caught on camera – YouTube
○ Weather-Related Vehicle Accidents Far More Deadly Than Tornadoes, Hurricanes,
Floods | The Weather Channel
○ DRIVE SMART Virginia (drivesmartva.org)
○ 30+ Car Crash Statistics You Need To Know in 2022 (safeatlast.co)
○ Motor Vehicle Crash Deaths | VitalSigns | CDC

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