Winter driving: what to know in order to stay safe

Jackson Sorensen, Staff Reporter

When it comes to winter driving, there are many things that need to be taken into account to keep everyone safe. 

John Bryant is a Public Information Officer for the State Patrol for District 6. He said to not be afraid to call 911 if you end up off the road and need help or just need the number of the closest towing company.

“You don’t need to be afraid to go slow. If someone wants to pass you, let them and wish them a good day,” Bryant said. “You’re most likely not the only one stranded. We go around to all of the cars and make sure folks are safe. If you are injured, we’ll arrange for medical attention. If you are just trapped, we’ll make sure that you have adequate supplies until the DOT can clear things up or a tow truck gets you out.” 

He suggested that everyone pack a kit that would contain camping gear and store it in their cars in case of emergencies. He strongly encourages drivers to keep their speed down, keep extra distance between the car in front of you and to not drive tired. 

Barbara LaBoe is a Public Information Officer for the Department of Transportation or DOT. She said that practicing with chains is something that every driver should know. 

“Cars that are all-wheel-drive or have all wheel tires are fine to go over the pass if the overhead signs say ‘traction tires advised,’ however, we may ask that you have chains available should conditions change,” LaBoe said. “If you end up stuck in traffic, the safest place is inside with your seatbelt on. If you do need to exit the vehicle, stand behind the vehicle so that if it rolls or another driver loses control, you have a greater chance of being safe.” 

She said every driver should have some sort of survival gear in their car all year round. She advised to gently apply pressure to the brake if the vehicle starts to lose control. 

Neil O’Neill is the manager at Ellensburg Tire Center. 

“Tires have come a long way in recent years from the old traditional studded tires to the newer studless tires. We still offer the studded tires, which is a great option. They still stop faster on compact snow and ice than any of the other options,” O’Neill said. “They have started to build all weather tires which will give you the 50,000-60,000 miles year round, but it’s also got the three peak side wall designation which means that they’re good for winter driving.”

O’Neill said if possible to watch the cars in front of the one ahead.  

“If the cars in front of me are putting on their brake lights, chances are the next one will too and the next one after that. Always being aware of those ahead and around are crucial,” said O’Neill.  

LaBoe pointed out that good winter tires will have a snowflake symbol on the actual tire. This is an indicator the tires are meant to handle snow and ice. Studded tires need to be removed from your vehicle before April 1st.