As the temperatures drop and snow begins to fly, students and other drivers will need to take extra precautions when traveling in and around Mount Pleasant.
According to Isabella County Sheriff Leo Mioduszewski, his department saw 58 percent more car accidents during the winter months last year than they did during the summer months.
“One of the big things that we see in this area is people just don’t account for the fact that it takes much longer to stop,” Mioduszewski said. “People are going too fast for conditions and they don’t realize that they can’t stop.”
This problem is due to the amount of time it takes to adjust to changing weather conditions. Mioduszewski said many people continue to drive the way they were accustomed to during the dry summer months, which can often lead to accidents.
In addition to driving too fast for conditions, Mioduszewski said winter drivers do not always account for the extra time it will take to get somewhere, causing them to rush and exhibit potentially reckless driving habits.
The Isabella County Sheriff attributed the increase to drivers not leaving enough space between themselves and other cars, which can lead to one vehicle rear-ending another.
Cases of rear-ending are the most common winter accidents seen by the Mount Pleasant Police Department according to Public Information Officer Jeff Thompson. The MPPD has received 899 reports of vehicle-related accidents since July 2012.
“Our accidents stay pretty consistent,” Thompson said. “What we do see in the city is that the worse the weather is, the fewer accidents there are.”
This trend, which conflicts with the overall statistics for Isabella County, might be due to lower speed limits and higher vehicle congestion.
According to Thompson, distracted driving is still a major cause of traffic accidents, no matter the season or weather.
“The No. 1 thing that any driver should do when driving the car, is driving the car,” Thompson said. “Anything that distracts your driving should be put secondary.”
Caledonia junior Hayley Harmon knows this all too well after her car was totaled two years ago in an accident near her hometown. Although it was winter, road conditions were good and the weather was clear as she pulled up to an intersection after getting lost on one of the back roads.
“I was at what I thought was a four-way stop , but it was only a two-way stop and I had the stop sign,” Harmon said. “I thought the car coming to the intersection to my right was going to stop, (so) I pulled forward and was t-boned.”
Harmon, who suffered several cuts and bruises in addition to a concussion, then had to sell what was left of her car for parts. While her accident was due to an error in judgment, she remains cautious driving during winter.
“Since my accident, I am very, very careful in rain and snow, especially going through intersections because some people don’t pay attention,” Harmon said. “I drive a Ford Ranger, so when the snow starts to fall more, I’ll have to weigh down my truck bed so I don’t fish tail a ton.”
Thompson emphasized that accidents can happen at any time, and that he actually sees more accidents involving college students during the summer months and clear weather conditions.
“There’s a false confidence in the summer,” Thompson said.
In addition to being a cautious driver, Mioduszewski stressed the use of headlights in poor weather conditions to alert other drivers to your presence on the road. He and his department encourage people to stay indoors and avoid driving altogether during severe weather if possible.