Police encourage drivers to exercise caution on icy roads

MECOSTA, OSCEOLA COUNTIES — As the last of the leaves abandon their trees and the snow begins to fall, local law enforcement officials are encouraging drivers to prepare for winter and exercise caution when driving on snowy and icy roads.

"The No. 1 thing is for people to slow down and plan a little extra time before going to school or work or wherever they need to go," said Mecosta County Sheriff Todd Purcell.

He added as snow, slush and black ice — or transparent ice that develops on the surface of a roadway — once again covers area roads, it is important for people to pay attention and keep their speed down.

Osceola County Sheriff Ed Williams noted reducing distractions, such as texting and driving, is increasingly important when driving in poor conditions.

"It only takes a split second for you to lose control," Williams said.

He explained if a person hits a patch of ice or slush while driving and they are not paying attention to the roadway, they are less likely to have time to correct their mistake before getting into an accident.

Taking steps such as reducing speed and eliminating distractions are necessary when driving on Michigan roads in the winter, but Williams said people also should make sure their vehicles are in good condition before winter hits to decrease the risk of some accidents.

He said the primary concern for winter driving is the vehicle's tires, and people should check if the tread has worn down to an unsafe level. In addition to the tires, Williams said people should confirm their anti-lock braking system is functioning.

While these tips may help when driving in the snow and ice, Williams and Purcell said people still should be prepared in the event an accident does occur.

Purcell said people are encouraged to make an emergency kit for their vehicle containing items including a flashlight, blanket, phone charger and extra drinking water in case they get in an accident and they have to wait for assistance.

In addition to keeping a few emergency items on hand, Williams said as long as the vehicle is safe to stay in after a crash, people should remain in their car rather than walking or standing in the road in case another driver gets in an accident in the same spot.

"People should stay in their vehicles, turn on all four flashers and call for help," he said.