A group of professionals from several different safety-related disciplines meets as the need arises in Chippewa County to review the fatal and serious injury roadway crashes that have occurred in our county.

A group of professionals from several different safety-related disciplines meets as the need arises in Chippewa County to review the fatal and serious injury roadway crashes that have occurred in our county. This committee discusses possible contributing factors to crash outcomes in order to make recommendations in each of four areas: roadway engineering, emergency response, enforcement and education. At our recent meeting the committee asked that the people who drive on our area roads be reminded about several safety issues:

• Look both ways twice. We talk about a “blind spot”. Did you know that this is an actual physical characteristic of the human eye? Our brains compensate by “filling in the blanks”. Looking both ways twice negates this phenomenon. In addition, the pillars that protect the passenger compartment in our vehicles cause significant visual barriers. So don’t forget to look, and then look again.

• Always wear your seatbelt. It’s the law in MN that all drivers and passengers must be buckled up, yet each year more than half of the motorists killed in crashes aren’t belted. Seat belt use is the most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries in crashes.

• Adjust speed according to road/weather/traffic conditions. The posted speed limits are maximum speeds at ideal road, weather and traffic conditions. Sun shining and a little blowing snow drifting across the road can cause “blow ice” at this time of year. Clear roads in the morning can become treacherous by afternoon.

• Know your load. When hauling items on a trailer, any action by the tow vehicle is compounded by the trailer (bounces, swerving, etc.), so adjust your speed accordingly.

• Use your turn signal well before your turn. Other drivers need time to notice and respond to your change in speed. Let them know well in advance what your intentions are.

• Drinking alcohol and driving are never a good combination. Even one drink can make a difference in your ability to recognize and respond to unexpected situations on the road.

• Driving drowsy is driving impaired!  In a recent study by  AAA,  it was found that drivers who miss two to three hours of sleep a day are four times more likely to get  in a crash, compared to drivers who sleep for seven hours. Missing this much sleep can be just as impairing as driving legally drunk.

• Familiar roads can be dangerous. Driving on often-travelled routes can make us complacent. Obstructions can appear within seconds. Be sure to take extra care when driving gravel roads with their often uneven surfaces and soft, narrow shoulders. Remember to stay alert and focused.

• Drive defensively. Always expect that other drivers will do the unexpected. Assume that they do not see your vehicle, and that they will not obey traffic signs.

• If you get a ticket for speeding, remember to tell the officer “Thank you”. He or she may have just saved your life.

The Fatal/Serious Crash Review Committee would like to extend our sympathy to those who have lost a loved one to traffic crashes. We would also like to remind everyone to please drive safely as we work toward having zero deaths on our area roadways.

For more on this story and others pick up this week’s paper or subscribe today!