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Insight from WFPD: Traffic crashes up; weather contributing factor

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The West Fargo Police Department has responded to fifty-six traffic crashes during the first fourteen days of 2011. Only a few minor injuries have been reported. Excessive speed, ice covered roadways and obstructed views were contributing factors in a number of the crashes.

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The 2011 traffic crash numbers are up from forty-one traffic crashes which occurred during the same time period in 2010. Police responded to thirty-six traffic crashes in the first two weeks of 2009. Total traffic crashes numbered 584 during 2010 and 629 in 2009. No fatalities occurred in 2010 or 2009.

Compacted snow and ice upon the roadway can make stopping difficult. On dry pavement an average vehicle traveling at 25 mph requires eighty-five feet of stopping distance. This includes the driver's reaction time and application of the brakes. A vehicle traveling at 30 mph requires 109 feet to stop. The figures are based on attempting to stop on dry pavement. Don't forget wet surfaces can double your stopping distance and ice and snow can increase it by up to 10 times.

An obstructed field of vision from falling snow and blowing snow limit a driver's ability to see other vehicles or hazards on the roadway. The recent multi vehicle crash on I-94 is an example of where a driver was driving to fast for conditions. By the time the driver identified the danger on the roadway the vehicle's speed did not allow enough stopping distance to avoid the collision.

In town snow banked along the roadway presents an increased hazard. The height of the snow prevents drivers from seeing vehicles traveling on intersecting roadways or entering from driveways. Pedestrians also have difficulty seeing vehicles and are at times forced to walk upon the roadway due to snow blocked sidewalks.

Street crews continue to apply material to the road surface to clear ice and snow. Cold temperatures decrease the material efficiency to break down the snow and ice. Crews also work to widen roadways to improve visibility. Where storage space is no longer available along the roadway street crews or contractors will haul snow to stockpile locations.

Our abundant snow fall this season has ensured a long season of winter time driving. Check the forecast before you travel. Make sure you are dressed appropriately for the weather and have a winter survival kit. Adhere to travel advisories and warnings. Slow down, anticipate hazards and allow room for increased braking distances.

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