Motorists can act to improve safety

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By Scott Mellinger

This month I’d like to focus on safe driving awareness.

As most of you know, these months ahead are treacherous, and sometimes crashes occur with very little hope of preventing them. However, there are preventive tips that should be remembered:

• Make sure you clear all of your vehicle windows of snow and ice. Limited visibility is a huge factor. One of my favorite things to do, even though it’s a little embarrassing for the driver, is when I am stopped at a traffic light or I am driving my police vehicle behind a car with windows covered in snow/ice, is to pull that vehicle over and clean its windows. A little peer pressure can go a long way.

• Keep your gas tank as full as reasonably possible to avoid running out of gas in frigid weather.

• Leave for destinations earlier than usual so safe speeds can be your mission.

• Take a cell phone or make sure someone is aware of each trip you make and when you should probably return.

• Do not take chances. Unless you have an emergency, when roads are at their worst, stay where you are.

• Wear safety belts, and protect children by using certified safety seats for them. The mandated child restraint systems have saved thousands of lives. The seats can be a real pain to buckle in or move from vehicle to vehicle, but the alternative, putting a child at risk, is not acceptable.

In 2016, our deputies investigated 1,129 crashes. Personal injury occurred in 402 of those crashes. These numbers do not even include the other 12 law enforcement agencies in Madison County and crashes they investigate.

Crashes take up a huge amount of our time, which could be better spent preventing or investigating crimes. The highest frequency of crashes occurred between December and April.

Many times, a crash requires law enforcement agencies to have multiple officers at the scene, either for investigation or to help slow down and direct traffic safely. Every single crash causes inconvenience and safety concerns for other motorists.

We recommend you call in any crash you are involved in, because you never know if the other driver actually has insurance. Even if the crash is minor to the extent that a State of Indiana crash report is not required, we recommend that an officer respond to gain information from both drivers so that insurance and driver status can be verified.

Mellinger is the Madison County sheriff.