AS I SEE IT
By Neal A. Shipman
While western North Dakota has so far experienced a relatively snow-free winter, that doesn’t mean that the area hasn’t already seen icy and snow covered roads that have resulted in several motor vehicle accidents.
Which brings a question to all of the motorists in McKenzie County, and especially our new residents who have moved here from substantially milder winter climates. And that question is, “Are you ready for driving in a North Dakota winter?”
Before you categorically say “yes,” it is important to point out to our new residents that as you have probably found out already, driving the roads in the “oil patch” is quite a bit different than what you may be accustomed to.
First, as everyone knows, the amount of traffic on our highways is among the highest in the state. And even though our highways have seen significant improvements over the past several years, when you couple snow-covered roads with high traffic volumes, you have a dangerous driving situation.
Second, the percentage of big trucks, pickups and SUVs traveling our roadways as compared to passenger vehicles is significantly higher. Which means that if an accident does occur, the person in the smaller passenger vehicle is going to stand the bigger chance of being injured.
Third, we get snow in the winter. And we can get rain in the winter. And we get lots of wind in the winter. And all of those conditions can make for some very dangerous winter driving conditions. If you don’t believe it, ask a North Dakota resident who knows and they will tell you that no matter how badly you want to go somewhere, there are times when the safest place to be is anywhere but on the roads.
If you doubt it, you just have to remember the “white-out conditions” that we saw last winter when high winds and heavy snow greatly impacted visibility. The weather patterns can change very quickly in North Dakota and motorists need to recognize that as the weather changes, so can the road and driving conditions. And whether you are a North Dakota native or not, there is nothing more frightful than being caught in a “white-out” while you are driving on the highway.
Thankfully, so far, we haven’t seen any major winter storms hit the region. But the snow will come, and North Dakota winters can often be long and sometimes brutal. North Dakotans know that. They recognize that fact and respect the weather and the road conditions. But more importantly, they adapt their driving to reflect the ever-changing road and weather conditions. Sometimes that means driving a lot slower than the speed limit. And it definitely means driving defensively.
Everyone wants to get to where they’re going as quickly as they can. But arriving at your destination safely needs to be the paramount consideration of every driver this winter.
So to every motorist out there, ask yourself, “Are you ready for driving in a North Dakota winter?”