Each winter the Spring Arbor Township Police Department, as well as other departments, deal with stranded motorist. The motorist are stranded because of traffic collisions, sliding off the roadway, getting stuck and vehicle mechanical problems. During these events you may be stranded for an extended period of time, possibly without cell phone service in our township or other areas of travel awaiting assistance.
I would like to offer a few suggestions on preparing for these events should they happen to you.
- Be sure your vehicle is good mechanical condition prior to the winter season including; tires suitable for the snowy roads with manufacture suggested PSI, coolant and windshield washer fluid conducive to freezing temperatures.
Before driving insure all of your vehicle windows are clear of snow and ice. Please don’t be that person trying to look through the small spot you have scraped off only on the driver side of the front windshield, while driving down the street. All of your windows must be clear, it’s not only dangerous but constitutes a vision obstruction according to the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code. Remember, you are responsible for any injuries or damage occurring from snow and ice build up on your vehicle that flies off your vehicle into traffic while you’re are driving down the road, so brush off your vehicle before driving on the public road. Be cautious when following semi-trucks, I have had several accidents over the years on M60 where sheets of ice have come off a semi-trailer and smashed out vehicle windows, unfortunately the semi driver is responsible for not insuring the trailer was clear on top before leaving the depot.
- Slow down, the posted speed limits in June can be hazardous in the winter months depending on road conditions, it is your responsibility to drive at a prudent and safe speed. Should you be observed by a police officer or be involved in a collision or “slide off”, and violation of the “basic speed” law i.e. driving too fast for conditions is determined to be the factor. You can be cited for careless or reckless driving and be subjected to criminal/civil actions for any injuries. This precaution should be stressed to any less experienced drivers in the family, especially if they have not driven in a Michigan winter yet.
- Do not leave your vehicle unattended and the engine running, it is against the motor vehicle code on public roads. Some jurisdictions have local ordinances on private property open to the public, so think about it the next time you run into the gas station or party store. If your vehicle is stolen because you left the engine running, your insurance company may have issues with your claim. The first question we ask is “did you leave your car running”? That is noted in the theft report for the insurance company. Thieves will actually hang out in or near parking lots waiting for a customer to leave their car running while they go inside, so they can jump in and take the vehicle.
- Dress warm and comfortable for your trips, however have a “winter kit” in your vehicle for the winter months with a supply of; heavy coats, sweat shirts, gloves, hats, scarfs, winter boots, blankets, baby diapers if applicable and take water when you leave (or an empty container to melt snow in before drinking).
- Have your itinerary and route planned with people at your final destination, and your return trip, so they know when you are leaving and expected to arrive. Should you run into problems they will be able to come looking for you or contact law enforcement via 911 to report an “over-due motorist”, and initiate a BOL to be looking for you throughout the state, remember cell phone service is NOT 100%.
- On road trips, especially out of the area, have a full tank of gas when you leave your community and refill when you leave your final destination to return home. Should you get stranded, be sure to turn your emergency flashers on, and set out road flares. If your vehicle is operable use the gas in your car for heat sparingly, remember remove any snow from your exhaust tail pipe, and use your “winter kit” to stay warm.
- Road flares are helpful to assist in locating you, warning motorist your vehicle is there and for starting a fire if needed. Be sure to familiarize yourself with road flares if you choose to carry them, before you actually need them, they can be very dangerous and cause severe burns if handled improperly.
- If a stranger stops to help, my advice would be to have them call 911 for you for police assistance, do not get out of the car or roll the window down to compromise your safety. Be cautious of people identifying themselves as police officers out of uniform, and no police car, stopping to help. Police cars in Jackson County will have blue and red lights with the exception of the Michigan State Police, they will have a single “red” strobe light on the roof, only police vehicles are allowed to have blue lights. All police officers will have an identification card (badges are easy to obtain) with picture from the jurisdiction they work for, signed by their agency head. No legitimate police officer will be offended by you asking for their I.D. card.
If you have any questions please call my office or stop by. If you have other tips that you have utilized in the past and feel may be helpful please share on our Facebook page. I hope these suggestions will beneficial and assist you in your safe travels in Spring Arbor Township and beyond.