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Driving Better This Winter

This winter, all of us are going to be surprised by slippery driving conditions.  The data tells us driving habits in our state have grown more dangerous with distracted driving, speeding, and driving under the influence.  Taking these habits onto Michigan highways this winter is a bad idea.  We all know people who text-and-drive, speed, and drive after one too many.  Maybe all of these combined.  Now is a good time to tell them you care about them and call their attention to how lucky they’ve been!  Fatal winter crashes were up 17% in 2022.

40% of the overall winter crashes in Michigan in 2022 involved drivers driving at a speed that was “too fast” for conditions.  If you’re in an accident to due icy roads (as if that’s not bad enough) you can be ticketed for driving “too fast for conditions,” even you are driving at or below the posted speed limit. Michigan’s “basic speed law” requires drivers to drive at “a careful and prudent speed not greater than nor less than is reasonable and proper, having due regard to the traffic, surface, and width of the highway and of any other condition existing at the time.” (MCL 257.627(1))

I know I’m not the only guy who has driven to Chicago (or someplace far away), without a stop, in “record time.”  A little dehydration, driving a smidge over the limit, a full tank of gas… that’s how to break records!  It’s also asking for trouble.  The European Hydration Institute (it really exists) found that a driver’s concentration, alertness, and decision-making are reduced when not enough water is consumed beforehand.  In their study, the dehydrated group’s performance was comparable to driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% — the U.S. legal driving limit — or while sleep-deprived.  Dehydration and slippery roads suddenly sound like an unhealthy combination!  Their study also found that diuretic effect of caffeine in is minimal – so we can hydrate with coffee.  That’s good news!

The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) has launched its “Winter Driving” website which is packed with tips and useful resources for our winter driving challenges.

SAFETY REMINDER: Slowing down is always your best defense during icy Michigan winter road conditions and winter weather.

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