The Missouri State Highway Patrol is discouraging travel during this week's hazardous weather conditions. Freezing rain followed by sleet, heavy snow, wind, and bitterly cold temperatures will make driving treacherous and dangerous should you break down or slide off the road and become stranded.
Troopers will be out in full force during these severe weather and driving conditions. All leave days have been canceled and troopers are working 12-hour shifts , some in four-wheel drive pickup trucks, to provide coverage. However, motorists need to be aware response times will be much longer than normal especially on secondary roads. The Patrol is working with the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to preposition manpower and resources throughout the state in preparation of the winter storm, which will enable the Patrol to provide the best possible service.
Whether rain, sleet, ice, or snow, drivers need to make adjustments when the weather changes. The Patrol encourages motorists to plan ahead and drive safely or not at all during inclement weather. If they must drive in the inclement weather, drivers should plan extra time into their schedule to clean snow and ice completely from their vehicle. Make sure the windows are completely cleared to ensure visibility. Remember: Missouri law states if you're using your windshield wipers, your headlights must be turned on. It takes only a second to turn on your vehicle's headlights. But, that second could make you more visible to other drivers and prevent a traffic crash.
Keep in mind that Section 307.020 RSMo. states lighted lamps are required, "from a half-hour after sunset to a half-hour before sunrise, and at any other time when there is not sufficient light to render clearly discernible persons and vehicles on the highway at a distance of 500 feet ahead."
Before you travel, gather an ice scraper, tire chains, battery booster cables, blankets, flashlight, and a bag of sand to place in your vehicle's trunk. Emergencies cannot be predicted, but planning for them can help you if one should arise. A fully charged cell phone is an additional asset when driving in hazardous weather conditions. Missouri's Road Condition Report (1-800-222-6400) can help you plan your route before you leave. This number gives an automated listing of road conditions throughout the state. You may also view MoDOT's Road Condition Map by going to the Patrol's web site www.mshp.dps.mo.gov and clicking on the Road Condition icon. Drivers should also allow more time to reach their destination at a slow, safe speed.
Section 304.012 RSMo. directs motorists to exercise the highest degree of care on Missouri's roadways. This part of Missouri law states, "Every person operating a motor vehicle on the roads and highways of this state shall drive the vehicle in a careful and prudent manner and at a rate of speed so as not to endanger the property of another or the life or limb of any person and shall exercise the highest degree of care." When inclement weather hits, please adjust how you drive, so that you continue to "exercise the highest degree of care". For instance: Stopping quickly in the winter on snow-covered or icy roads is next to impossible. Use care by increasing your following distance as you drive. Increase your following distance to five seconds or more. Ask yourself if the speed you're traveling is safe for the weather conditions. Driving the speed limit may not be "exercising the highest degree of care" during inclement weather; driving over the speed limit never is.
If you are involved in a minor traffic crash, one of the first thoughts you might have is whether or not you should move your vehicle. The answer is yes. Ten years ago a state law took effect which requires vehicles involved in a minor, non-injury crashes to move off the traveled portion of the road. For every minute a vehicle stops on the highway and blocks one lane of traffic, it backs up approaching traffic for four minutes. Section 304.151 RSMo. states, "Except in the case of an accident resulting in the injury or death of any person, the driver of a vehicle which for any reason obstructs the regular flow of traffic on the roadway of any state highway shall make every reasonable effort to move the vehicle or have it moved so as not to block the regular flow of traffic.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol is here to serve and protect. If you become stranded or see another vehicle stranded on the side of the road with passengers, please call the Missouri State Highway Patrol emergenc number at 1-800-525-5555 or dial *55 on a cellular phone. These numbers ring at the nearest troop headquarters.
Planning ahead and being a courteous driver are important every day. In winter driving conditions, this becomes crucial. Please slow down and wear your seat belt.