University research has now proved what you’ve suspected a long time — that during the summer we forget a lot of our winter-driving skills. Tom Maze at Iowa State University’s Center for Transportation Research and Education has the figures to confirm it. It turns out the winter-weather crash rate begins at a high level early in the winter season, then diminishes as people “learn how to drive” during the course of the winter. He got data from law-enforcement and public-safety reports. They looked at crash records in a centralized database, and whenever snow or sleet made for wintry conditions they counted a winter-weather crash. They compared them to the crashes that happened during clear weather. Not only does the sloppy weather put us at risk — but he says it’s clear Iowans can learn to cope with it. It turns out that Iowans who are fairly good at driving in the snow do have to re-learn that skill every year. He says hopefully we don’t have to crash to discover that our skills have declined during the nice weather — but Maze says we ought to take the lesson that we can’t count on our skill much during the first wintry weather that hits every year. “The real moral of the story is that if you don’t have to be out in it, don’t.” Maze says, “It’s the worst time to be out, at the first storm of the year.” He says even if it arrives late in the season, as it will this mild winter, that first storm is reason enough to stay home, put off a trip, and travel later.
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