Quarterly council meeting at Fort McCoy focuses on driving safety

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Story by Aimee Malone on 10/27/2017
Seasonal driving hazards were the focus of the Oct. 17 Safety and Occupational Health Advisory Council meeting.

One of the biggest fall driving hazards is deer crossing the road, said Safety Specialist Don Vender with the Installation Safety Office.

October through December is the breeding season and has the highest concentration of deer vs. vehicle accidents.

"The bucks kind of go crazy this time of year," Vender said. "They will walk out in front of you in a heartbeat. They don't care about anything but trying to get that doe on the other side of the road."

Slowing down makes it more likely a driver will notice a deer before it's too late. Flashing the lights and tapping the horn can scare off a deer that's stopped in the roadway. Also, deer are pack animals that rarely travel alone. If one steps into the road, there are usually more behind.

Unless you're driving a motorcycle, it's usually better to hit a deer that jumps out in front of your vehicle than to try to swerve to avoid it. When people try to avoid the deer, they can hit another vehicle; roll a vehicle; or hit something even harder, like a tree, Vender said.

Colder weather will soon follow fall, bringing new hazards to the roadways.

Vender recommended that everyone prepare their vehicles for winter before the cold weather begins. It's important to check antifreeze, windshield washer fluid, and tire tread and pressure. Tires lose pressure as the air gets colder. Even if a vehicle has sensors, it's still good to check the pressure manually.

Vender also recommended putting a survival kit in every vehicle and thinking about what might be needed before setting out on any trip, long or short.

"Do I have enough gas in the car? Do I have lights? Do I have water? Do I have snacks in the back?" he asked. "Remember a few years back, up in Buffalo, they were stranded on the interstate for days."

Sgt. Tony Green with the Wisconsin State Patrol Academy shared some tips for driving safely during wintry weather.

"No. 1: You have to slow down," Green said. He said he's often passed by drivers during the winter, and he'll see them in the ditch or median a little way down the road. While sometimes accidents are unavoidable in bad weather, people have a better chance of correcting or avoiding injury if they slow down. Drivers need to judge their speed based on road conditions and not speed limits, Green said.

Lighter vehicles can have a hard time correcting if they go off course, he said. "A great investment (is) a sand bag," Green said. "With (most) cars being front-wheel drive now, the weight is in the front, and you lose control in the back."

Balancing the weight can help keep a vehicle from spinning out of control, and the sand can be used for traction if a driver ends up stopped on the road.

Green also said that softer tires, while they don't last as long, are often better at dealing with snow. Lower-mileage tires are usually softer and have more grip than their longer-wearing, harder counterparts.

The meeting also covered perennial safety topics such as dealing with unexploded ordnance and pedestrian safety.

Vender said the U.S Army Combat Readiness Center (USACRC) is launching a new year-round campaign to replace its older seasonal campaigns: "Your Life, Our Loss."

"When a Soldier dies in a preventable accident, it has a detrimental effect on the unit morale and welfare," states the campaign's website, "That Soldier's absence, however, extends far beyond the Army because often they also leave behind heartbroken Family, friends, and colleagues."

More safety information is available at the USACRC website and through the Installation Safety Office. Call 608-388-3403.

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