Poll: Most drivers say snow is no problem

Think you can drive in the snow?

If so, you’re not alone. But you might be fooling yourself.

Despite the chaos that plays out on Puget Sound-area roads on snow days, a recent poll by Seattle-based Pemco insurance found that four of five Northwest drivers believe they’re good at navigating in the cold, slushy mush.

The poll asked drivers about their own skill and comfort in inclement conditions, along with what they observe from other cars on the road.

The poll also found that 54 percent of the drivers in the state and the Portland area feel comfortable driving on snowy and icy roads. Naturally, the figure was higher in Eastern Washington than on this side of the state.

According to the poll, only slightly more than one-third of drivers in the state carry chains in their cars.

Whether drivers carry chains may not matter if the owner doesn’t know how to put them on. More than half of Northwest residents never have installed tire chains on their vehicle.

“Drivers should practice putting on chains before the snow falls,” Pemco spokesman Jon Osterberg said. “Don’t simply toss new chains into the trunk until they’re really needed. You’re better off practicing at home in daylight than doing it with numb fingers on the side of the road with cars spinning around you, perhaps after dark.”

The poll found that Northwest drivers do travel in winter with extra clothing, blankets, water, or a first-aid kit. Fewer than a third, however, carry flares or extra food, and just 20 percent keep a shovel in case of emergencies.

Despite the poll results, numbers from the state Department of Transportation show that driving in poor conditions, even with chains on your tires, is far from safe. According to the agency, most accidents occur in fall and winter.

For more information, and to take the poll, go to www.pemco.com/poll/default.aspx.

Lois Bradbury of Marysville writes: On both I-5 and I-90 there are stretches of road that have small, parallel rectangular depressions in the pavement of the slow lane. What is the purpose of these?

Tom Pearce, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, responds: The parallel rectangular depressions along I-5 or I-90 that Lois is referring to are called rumble strips. These are actually located on the shoulders just beyond the fog lines, not in the travel lane, and are ground into the shoulder pavement surface.

These are typically installed along rural sections of roadways such as I-5, I-90 or U.S. 2, along both the outside (right) shoulder as well as the inside (left) shoulder. Shoulder rumble strips are effective in reducing run-off-the-road collisions caused by driver factors such as fatigue, a driver falling asleep or driver inattention.

E-mail us at streetsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your city of residence.

Look for updates on our Street Smarts blog at www.heraldnet.com/streetsmarts.

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