Editorial: Stay alert on the road this winter

It's always a good idea to drive carefully. Even under the best of conditions, hazards and other dangers can appear when you least expect them. The long drive along Highway 64, from Williams to the Grand Canyon, is often the site of numerous accidents, even on sunny days. In the winter months, however, driving conditions can become downright nasty on northern Arizona's roads.

Be as prepared as possible this winter driving season by following a few simple methods as provided by the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety. Always keep a full tank of gas in your vehicle, particularly if you know in advance that a storm is on the way. Keep warm clothes on hand should you need them, as well as food and water on the off chance your drive grows longer than anticipated. It's also a good idea to have a cell phone on hand. Snow cables and chains are never a bad idea either, nor is letting someone know about your driving plans before you depart. Always get plenty of rest and give yourself extra winter driving time in reaching your destination.

Often, however, becoming stuck, or in an accident, is simply unavoidable. When this happens, never stand in the roadway or in any way block traffic. Icy roads will prevent many from being able to stop in time. Even if the roadway looks clear, there can often be black ice, which is very hard to see. Black ice can form quickly and needs very little moisture to become a problem.

There are a number of easy steps that one can take to avoid winter roadway accidents. The first, and one of the most important, rules is to take your time while driving and remaining patient on the roadway. Take turns slowly, brake slowly, and accelerate slowly in order for your vehicle to get the best traction possible on the ice. It's never a good idea to follow close behind snow plows. In fact, increasing your distance between any vehicle is a good idea in the winter months, as it can give you more time to break and get around hazards in the road ahead.

Even the best drivers can often face challenges in the winter driving months. These easy steps might just make the difference between a challenging trip and a downright terrible one. Please drive safely this winter.

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