Iowa State Patrol spokesman Nathan Ludwig says the winter weather is just one factor in two of the big accidents on I-35 which involved 70 cars and then more than 90.
“I think it’s a combination of things — once you go a couple of weeks with not having any adverse weather and then you throw a couple inches of fast-moving snow at Iowa motorists, it tends to add to the accident things,” Ludwig. He says going too fast for the weather conditions is probably the biggest factor in most accidents.
“I talked to some motorists who were involved in the 92-car pileup up by Huxley on Saturday, and some of them did say they slowed down to 50, 55 miles-an-hour,” Ludwig says. “Slowing down in one thing, but the other thing is keeping a good following distance between you and the car ahead of you. And motorists just need to know that when you are on the interstate, things like this can happen.” Ludwig says you also need to expand your awareness in winter driving conditions.
“The biggest thing that people forget to do when they are on the interstate is they don’t look down the road — they look where they are at,” Ludwig explains. “So that’s what we are telling motorists, look up ahead, because if there is a crash we are going to ask you to slow down a little sooner.” Sergeant Ludwig says freezing rain adds another dimension to winter driving.
“It can be deceiving. So, if it looks icy we are asking you to slow way down because it’s going to take some time for you to get to a stop. You’re not going to have any control over your vehicle,” Ludwig says. He says if others are still passing you by as you slow down, keep your speed down, because you may see them in the ditch down the road.
“As soon as the accident happens, they want to hop out of their car and take a look at their vehicle,” Ludwig says. “But if you are in an accident — call 9-1-1 and stay in your vehicle — because it’s going to be safer than being outside of your car.” Also be aware that some spots are more prone to freezing than others.
He says watch out for bridges and overpasses, don’t use the cruise control. Also, keep a firm grip on the wheel and light foot on the gas pedal, and remember that four-wheel drive doesn’t matter on a sheet of ice. Ludwig says traveling 70 on dry pavement, requires an overall stopping distance of around 350 feet, while traveling 50 miles-an-hour on dry pavement, requires an overall stopping distance of around 198 feet. Those distances all increase when you are driving in wet, icy conditions.