Slowing down, staying alert
County sheriffs offer tips for driving during the holiday
MECOSTA, OSCEOLA, LAKE COUNTIES — From turkey feasts to watching football on the living room TV, catching up with relatives and playing games outdoors, Thanksgiving is filled with traditions.
Before people can enjoy these traditions and many more, public safety officers said, they must first make it to their destinations in one piece.
"Fall holidays are always huge travel days," said Mecosta County Sheriff Todd Purcell. "People need to slow down and get where they're going safely."
He noted it is important for people to plan their trip on the road ahead of time, and try to leave at non-peak times, such as early in the morning or at night.
Lake County Sheriff Rich Martin added since weather can be unpredictable this time of year, people may need to leave a little earlier than usual to get where they are going.
"Give yourself more time to get to destinations," he said. "You can't be sure when the weather might change, or if there are accidents or traffic backups. You don't want to be out there driving at a fast speed trying to make up for lost time."
In addition to slowing down while driving in heavy traffic and during inclement weather, Osceola County Sheriff Ed Williams said people need to reduce distractions on the roads.
"When it comes to safe driving tips, I have three — make sure your cellphone is charged, keep it in your pocket and don't touch it unless you have to," he said.
Williams explained although having a charged cellphone close by at all times is important in case an accident does occur, people should not be looking at their phones while driving.
"You only have a split second to react to a situation, and if you are distracted by a cellphone, you decrease that time," he said.
Martin said people also should practice defensive driving to prevent some accidents.
"People need to always anticipate other drivers to do the wrong thing, such as pull out in front of them or have mishaps such as sliding on the ice," he said. "A lot of people have tunnel vision while driving, but they need to be alert to what is going on around them."
Purcell noted part of being aware of surroundings involves not driving with cruise control on, as this makes it more difficult to feel when the vehicle loses traction on icy roads.
While these tips could reduce the likelihood of an accident occurring, Martin said people still should be prepared in case there is an emergency, including having provisions such as blankets and keeping at least a half tank of gas in their vehicle at all times.
"All the time, people let their gas tanks run low. They are out traveling at night and plan to fill up their tank in the morning, but if they get stuck in a traffic backup, they are using more gas than they thought they would and can run out," he said.
Williams added if people are in an accident and there is snow on the ground, they need to make sure their exhaust pipe is clear of snow if they leave their vehicle running while waiting for help to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
"It is good to hope for the best, but plan for the worse," Martin said.