Winter puts demands on N.D. driversAs the holidays approach, thousands of North Dakotans will take to the highways and interstates to travel to be with friends and family this season. Officials across the state urge motorists take caution to prevent any tragedies that could occur.
By: By Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
As the holidays approach, thousands of North Dakotans will take to the highways and interstates to travel to be with friends and family this season. Officials across the state urge motorists take caution to prevent any tragedies that could occur.
Although specific numbers for the state aren’t available, the North Dakota AAA estimates in a seven-state region that includes North Dakota that one in every three people will travel for the holidays.
Nationwide the number comes to 93 million who will take to the roads, of which, 1.2 million are expected to get stranded or broken down this holid season.
“Much of that can be avoided by making sure your vehicle is properly prepared for the trip,” said Gene LaDoucer, North Dakota AAA spokesman.
A number of simple checks can be performed to make sure a vehicle can handle the cold-weather trip.
Those include being full on washer fluid and a proper mixture of coolant and water, having windshield wipers in good shape, riding properly inflated tires with good tread, a properly charged battery and all belts and hoses are checked.
A winter-readiness check can be conducted by most mechanics for little or no cost with an appointment. The checks are simple enough for someone with basic automotive knowledge.
But problems often come from the driver, not the vehicle, LaDoucer said.
“The most important thing is to drive for the conditions,” he said. “Allow yourself plenty of time to get to your destination so you’re not rushing.”
Another important tip for drivers and passengers is to always buckle up and never drink and drive, he said.
The biggest weather concern however, won’t be snow but will be an arctic intrusion bringing blustery temperatures into the area, said Tony Merriman, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Bismarck.
“It looks like Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we got slight chances of snow, but the main story is really going to be how cold it’s going to be,” Merriman said.
It could be difficult for highs to break 10 degrees on Monday and Tuesday, he said.
John Wheeler, WDAY, chief meteorologist, agreed with flurries over this weekend into Christmas, but said it’s hard to predict snow totals so many days out.
Wheeler said more accidents occur when there is a quick accumulation — like Jamestown on Tuesday — versus a big blizzard.
“Conditions like that, there’s not even any talk of closing roads. But the fact is they become very unsafe because you have a lot of traffic trying to drive full highway speed,” he said.
But no major events are forecasted to hit the area around Christmas.
“With any luck those little waves will miss us and we’ll just have some pretty flurries and it won’t affect traffic at all, that’s possible,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler said WDAY has multiple video updates a day on www.wday.com then clicking on weather. But he said the North Dakota Department of Transportation has the most up to date information on road conditions.
“We just like to tell them to know before you go,” said Brandon Beise, operations engineer in the maintenance division of the NDDOT. “The more information you have the better decision you can make.”
At www.dot.nd.gov and under travel information map travelers can view specific conditions on the state’s major roads. Travel information is also available by calling 511 from any phone.
Even with information available Beise said the most important thing when driving in winter is driving for the conditions, this includes not using the cruise control.
“The black ice can sneak up even if the road is sanded and you have good traction,” he said.
Beise and LaDoucer recommended motorists have a winter driving kit packed in their vehicles in case they do become stranded.
Essentials include blankets, warm clothing, water, a first aid kit, a heat source, cell phone, sand for traction, a small shovel, and non-perishable food items.
It’s also important not to run the car nonstop if stranded — just enough to stay warm. Also the exhaust pipe should be checked to make sure it is clear so poisonous gases aren’t directed back into the vehicle, where they could harm the passengers.
And if stranded, stay put. Don’t venture out looking for help.
“It’s easier to find individuals if they are with their vehicle, especially in extreme situations,” LaDoucer said.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org