Winter is here and the cold weather has set into Oakdale. The change in weather and temperature means there needs to be a change in some of our habits, namely when it comes to our cars. Whether it is our driving, our time allotment, or visibility, please make driving adjustments for this time of the year.
Please slow down. This may seem redundant and even simple. But the truth is — far too many people are driving too fast during inclement weather. The roads get slick quickly and it takes a minimal amount of rain in Oakdale for the streets to flood. The speed limit on a clear day may be as posted, 25 mph. The vehicle code section 22350 VC, unsafe speed for conditions, means that the speed limit for any given location (regardless what is posted) may be lower due to conditions. During rain and fog, the safe speed limit may be much slower than what is posted.
Check your equipment. Your tires and brakes may require some extra time to stop on wet surfaces. Again, the police department is asking you to slow down. The vehicle code requires that all equipment be in good working order. Finances are difficult, but tires need to have the proper amount of tread and brakes need to be working effectively. Windshield wipers should be checked and replaced if needed. Another overlooked piece of equipment is mudguards. If you are driving a truck with wide tires, put those mudguards on. This will keep mud and rocks from being kicked back and could prevent a vehicle accident to the cars behind you. If you think your equipment is fine, then give the person in the car next to you some extra time in case their equipment is not up to par. Regardless of who is at fault, nobody wants to be in an accident.
Get those headlights on! ‘Tis the season for not just rain, but also fog. If you are running your windshield wipers then visibility is probably reduced. The vehicle code requires you to have your headlamps on even during the day when you are running with the wipers in motion. While headlights may seem necessary for your own vision, they also help other vehicles see you. The same goes for fog. Many of us in the valley are used to driving in the fog, but familiarity leads to complacency. Fog reduces visibility, so slow down and get those headlamps on. Remember, headlights not only protect your safety, but the safety of others as well.
Give yourself some extra time during the winter months. In the morning what used to take five minutes from front door to work, may require you to spend an extra 10 minutes defrosting your vehicle’s windows. Please take the time to get up earlier and clear your side windows rather than drive with your vision obscured. The vehicle code requires windows to be free of obstructions, and this includes ice. Many drivers don’t allow themselves enough time to get those windshields defrosted and try to drive while scrunched down in their seat with an 8x11 window. This reduced visibility causes accidents.
Now, asking people to defrost their vehicles leads us to another problem. Please do not leave your vehicles unattended in your driveways to heat up or defrost. Having cars running and unattended creates an open invitation for thieves to walk by and steal your car. A thief may be walking home and not even in the market for a car when he/she stumbles across your open invitation. It is often just a crime of opportunity. Now on the flip side, there are those thieves that are looking for customers. They look for the cars that are sitting idle while the owners are still inside their homes, getting ready for work or school or even eating their breakfast. Keep in mind, it does not matter what area you live in, thieves will shop or walk in all areas.
Enjoy winter but keep the inclement weather in mind while driving. Slow down, keep your equipment properly working, and give yourself some extra time in case the weather causes delays.
Cop Corner is a monthly column provided by officers of the Oakdale Police Department, offering a variety of information and safety tips.