Merry Christmas! The holiday season is here, which means many drivers will be hitting the road in Missouri and nationwide. This year, winter weather conditions have already created some travel headaches throughout the Midwest - and there's more snow and ice expected in the days ahead.
Yesterday, heavy snow and whiteout conditions contributed to a fatal 25-vehicle pileup north of Des Moines, Iowa. Authorities say the winter weather blinded drivers on Interstate 35, making it impossible for them to see vehicles that had slowed or stopped on the road. These conditions resulted in several chain reaction crashes involving several semi-trucks and passenger vehicles. Two people died in the incident: 27 year-old Colby Bostick and 43 year-old Sheila Blood, both of Arkansas. Bostick was reportedly killed when she was struck by a vehicle after she got out of her car to check on one of her passengers. Seven others were injured in the pileup.
At the same time, jackknifed tractor trailers shut down sections of Interstate 80, and, closer to home, Interstate 29 was closed down from St. Joseph, Missouri to the Iowa border.
Traveling in winter weather: A few holiday travel tips
• Slow down. Traveling in winter weather requires drivers to make adjustments, given the conditions. Reducing your speed is especially important, since you'll need to be able to stop safely if a situation or obstacle presents itself. In good conditions, you should allow about three seconds between your vehicle and the one in front of you, but safety advocates recommend you increase that distance to eight to 10 seconds in winter weather.
• Know your vehicle's limitations. Don't assume that your vehicle can handle any and all weather conditions: snow and ice can be troublesome for all vehicles, including those with four-wheel and front-wheel drive.
• Make sure you can see, and be seen. Drive with your lights on to make it easier for other motorists to see you, and keep your windshield and your lights clean as you travel.
• Avoid sudden maneuvers. Attempting to turn or brake suddenly can prove disastrous in winter weather. Signal your intentions in advance, and refrain from slamming on your brakes. Braking gently will reduce your risk of skidding - and if you do skid, ease off the brake slowly.
• Take precautions. Wear your seat belt, and make sure your passengers are buckled up as well. Give yourself plenty of time to travel so you don't feel you have to rush. Also, it's wise to carry a roadside emergency kit in your vehicle - jumper cables, blankets, flashlights and other similar items can come in handy if you find yourself stranded.
Current weather reports are predicting that another winter storm could complicate travel in Missouri on Christmas Day. If you're planning to be on the road, we encourage you to be prepared for snowy or icy conditions. Travel safe, and have a happy holiday!