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Winter driving a risk for all ages

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By Leslie Moore

 

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Winter officially began Dec. 21. Though the season hasn't yet brought hazardous driving conditions, knowing how to drive in inclement weather will give drivers plenty of time to prepare themselves and their vehicles for the winter season.

Jack Pogue, owner of Firestone, said the best advice he can give for driving in winter conditions is to simply stay at home. However, he says people often have to drive despite potential hazards.

He said there are several precautions drivers can take to make sure their vehicle is prepared for cold temperatures, ice and snow.

"The first thing is make sure you check your air pressure [in your tires] because when it's cold, the tires tend to shrink," Pogue said. "And make sure you always have your best tires in the front ... most everything today's front-wheel drive."

Pogue said extremely cold temperatures can affect vehicle batteries and starters, so he recommends having these checked and, if needed, replaced, before the winter season begins.

Lawrence "Peanut" Lawson, service manager at Auto Smart, said serpentine belts should also be checked for cracks or signs of dry rotting because winter time is usually when they will break.

"You need to check your wiper blades, they always mess up in the wintertime, and it's important to make sure all your lights are working," Lawson said.

Lawson also said it's important to have a fresh fuel filter because if any water is trapped inside, that will likely be the first to freeze.

When buying new tires, Tony Knifley, co-owner of Taylor County Tire, says to make sure to get all-season tires. According to Knifley, snow tires were once useful for rear-wheel drive vehicles, but now that most vehicles on the road are front-wheel or four-wheel drive, they aren't really necessary.

"The front-wheel drive cars have really made a difference when driving in the snow," Knifley said. "But if you have ice, there's not much you can do. You're better just to stay off it."

Pogue said when driving on snow-covered or icy roads, drivers should remember it may take more time and room to bring their vehicle to a complete stop. Therefore, he said, pumping a vehicle's breaks will make it easier to stop and to avoid losing traction.

"Give a lot of distance between the car in front of you and where you are," Pogue said.

Brian Smothers, Taylor County Road Department foreman, said road department employees and the county's six dump trucks are well prepared should they be needed.

"It's the same as every year," Smothers said. "We just sit around waiting for the snow."

According to Smothers, about 30 tons of salt was all that was needed to clear the county's roads last year. But if more salt is needed, there are about 400 tons on site. He said he doesn't anticipate running out anytime soon.

"In each district, we try to do the roads with the most traffic on them first," Smothers said. "It makes a difference for us whether school's in or out. When school's out, if there's a road that just two people live on, we can wait on it."

Holland Milby, manager of the city's maintenance garage, said drivers need to be watchful of salt trucks. He says it is dangerous to pass a salt truck because there is no way to know the condition of the untreated road ahead. 

"We already got our salt," Milby said. "We got a bin full of salt, so we're ready for the weather but I hope we don't get it."

Milby said with all of the city's trucks in use, it takes about eight hours to clear the streets of Campbellsville.

"It will start working within 30 minutes when you put it on there," Milby said. "But when the temperature gets below 18, it don't work very good."

Rodney Turpin, transportation director at Taylor County Schools, said many steps are taken to ensure the safety of the buses, should drivers encounter slick roads.

"We have a lot of rural routes, so we try to make those buses a priority," Turpin said. "Tires are No. 1 issues for buses that go out in the county."

Turpin said many factors are considered when making the decision to delay or cancel school. He said the first is that the majority of students live in rural areas.

"We have a lot of student drivers," Turpin said. "Obviously, you don't want a situation where we go to school and we have students driving on ice."

Turpin said a decision is usually made by 5:30 a.m. so that there is plenty of time to get word of a cancellation to news outlets so parents can make alternate arrangements.

"We're always going to err on the side of caution," Turpin said. "You can always make up a day, but you can't make up a life."