Take one for the road

Yesterday (Thursday ) we saw our first real fall of snow in Mayo this year which brought cheer and fun to many a heart before the sun returned and melted it all away. But with low temperatures promised for this weekend drivers have been encouraged to exercise extreme caution on the roads.

While the snow is a welcome sight as we sit inside warm houses or offices looking out, we mustn’t forget the dangers that lurk beneath.

Already statistics have begun to be compiled into the yearly road death numbers so let’s start the year with the resolution that we will not become a statistic ourselves in 2009.

Thankfully we have been spared the harsh conditions witnessed in the east of the country over the last week. Some people might lament this as Mayo schools remained open and it was work as usual.

But freezing conditions on damp roads will lead to treacherous conditions across the county over the weekend so the advice is keep driving to a minimum and only venture out when absolutely necessary.

The RSA has issued the following advice for road users in snowy or freezing conditions. Greater levels of observation, anticipation, and concentration are required when driving in snowy or icy conditions. Clear windows and mirrors before setting out, carry a screen scraper and de-icer. Do not use hot water on the windscreen as it can crack the glass. Remove all snow from your vehicle before commencing your journey.

Remember it takes longer to stop in icy conditions than on a dry road. Drive slowly and allow extra room between your vehicle and the vehicle in front.

Use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin. Select a low gear when travelling downhill, especially around bends. If driving an automatic, familiarise yourself with the manual override function. This will allow you manually select an appropriate gear so as to avoid braking where that might lead to skidding. Manoeuvre gently, avoid harsh braking and acceleration. To brake on ice or snow without locking your wheels, get into a low gear earlier than normal, using the clutch smoothly and allow your speed to fall and use the brake pedal gently.

Remember that heavy snowfall and rain reduce visibility. Use dipped headlights and decrease speed smoothly. Watch out for black ice, especially in sheltered/shaded areas on roads, under trees, and adjacent to high walls. Check tyres to ensure minimum tread depth of 1.6mm and correct tyre pressure. Check your vehicle owner’s manual to see if your vehicle has any of the following and know how they assist your driving: ABS – anti lock braking system; EBD – electronic brake force distribution: TCS – traction control system; EBA – electronic brake assist; ESP - electronic stability programme.

In a joint initiative with the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland and FBD Insurance, the Road Safety Authority is distributing 30,000 high visibility reflective vests among 4,200 rural pubs for free. The advice is “take one for the road”. The safety drive is part of a major road safety blitz aimed at protecting pedestrians and cyclists travelling to and from the local pub.

Last year was the safest year on Ireland’s roads since records began. While 279 people tragically lost their lives on Irish roads in 2008, it is the lowest recorded number of road deaths in this country. The earliest recorded figure for road deaths was in 1959 when 306 people were killed.

Let’s not become a statistic. Keep safe.


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