SIDNEY — Sidney Chief of Police William Balling wants to put citizens at ease when it comes to driving in the snow.
“Winter driving is a topic that makes both parents of new drivers and experienced drivers shiver. Sidney P.D. is happy to announce that the statistics show that Sidney drivers are generally very good at driving in winter conditions,” Balling said.
In 2021, the month that had the highest crash rate was October, coming in at 51 crashes for the month. December had 39; January had 46 followed by 44 in February. March saw 42 followed by the lowest crash month for the year in April with only 31 crashes.
Most of the crashes that do happen in the snow are rear-ends. Rear-end crashes occur when a driver fails to slow in time before striking the back of another car. In citations, these crashes are called “assured clear distance ahead” (ACDA). In the winter, this is often the result of slipping on the snow or ice. In 2021, officers gave out the most tickets for speed or ACDA-related reasons, handing out over 350 tickets for these offenses.
According to Balling, one thing drivers can do to increase safety in winter conditions is to leave more distance between themselves and other vehicles.
“There are certain demographics that also need to focus on this more. In 2021, the elderly got into the most accidents,” Balling said.
Elderly drivers were followed by drivers aged 15-25, which were followed by teens aged 13-19. According to Balling, these drivers may have less experience driving in winter conditions or may be experiencing age-related difficulties that can take their focus away from the road.
“These age groups will benefit from extra care when it comes to driving in the snow,” Balling said.
One tip Balling offered was to only drive at 80% capacity in the snow, which is a tactic taught to police officers when learning how to pursue vehicles.
If a driver commits 100% of their driving ability to their speed then they will no longer have any ability to make adjustments for little things that pop up such as pedestrians, sudden braking, and patches of snow or ice,” Balling said. “Drivers in the at-risk category would do well to consider driving less than that and only driving to 60 to 70% of their capacity in the snow.”
Many websites offer advice on what to do if a vehicle starts to slide and spin out of control. According to icyroadsafety.com, drivers should not hit their breaks, and should turn into the slide; an example of this can be found at https://icyroadsafety.com/correct.shtml. Additionally, it is important not to panic and over-correct.
“They advise to ‘turn your front wheels in the same direction that the rear of the vehicle is sliding,’” Balling said.
Another thing drivers can do to increase safety is to check the tread on their tires.
“As much as it can be difficult to foot the bill for new tires, balding tires increase your risk of hydroplaning in the snow and melted runoff,” Balling said.
Balding tires can make it more likely that, despite hitting the brakes, a vehicle may still slide into other cars or off the roadway. An easy way to check a vehicle’s tire tread is to take a penny and put it in the groove of the tire. If Lincoln’s head is visible, then it’s time to replace the tires.
While Balling expressed pride in winter drivers around Sidney, he said that there are always ways that drivers can improve safety while driving in the snow.
“Keep in mind that speed and not enough space between your vehicle and others will most likely be the cause of your crash if you do get into one this winter,” Balling said. “If you do happen to get into an accident, just know no matter the conditions the Sidney Police Department will be there to provide assistance.”
The Sidney Daily News conducts a periodic interview to update readers with news from the Sidney Police Department, 234 W. Court St., Sidney.