Snowy road conditions turned deadly in Pennsylvania yesterday resulting in a 50 vehicle pile-up along the eastbound lane of Interstate 78 in Bethel Township about 75 miles northwest of Philadelphia. According to PennLive.com, witnesses reported sudden whiteout conditions as more than 50 private and commercial vehicles became entangled around 9:45 am Saturday. Three people were killed and about 40 more were taken to 6 or 7 hospitals to be checked out including members of the Penn-Lehigh Valley men’s basketball team who were traveling by charter bus to a game in New Kensington when they were hit by a tractor trailer. Luckily, none of the players were seriously injured. However, Megan Manlove of Penn State Hershey Medical Center reported that 3 people were admitted there in serious condition, while 3 others had moderate to serious injuries.
In the meantime, state troopers said that more than 70 people had been transported to a Red Cross warming shelter at a nearby firehouse.
While the safest way to avoid accidents during snowstorms is to avoid driving in them altogether, there are times when you have no choice. As per her book, “Car Ownership for Women,” author Dani Ben-Ari cautions drivers to decrease their speed and leave plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front of you, and be sure to brake gently to avoid skidding on slick roads. If you feel the wheels begin to lock up, ease off the brake carefully. However, if you sense your rear wheels are skidding, take your foot off the accelerator, tap the breaks, and steer in the direction of the skid. In other words, if you are sliding right, steer right. If you are sliding left, steer left. If you start to “fishtail” as you recover from the skid you may have to carefully steer both right and left a couple of times to bring the vehicle back under control. If you sense your front tires are losing contact with the road, take your foot off the gas and shift into neutral, but refrain from steering immediately. As the tires skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle down and you will regain traction. As it does, shift back into drive and accelerate slowly.
Other basic safety measures are to make sure your windshield is clear and keep your lights on so other cars can see you. In most states the laws require that your headlights must be on whenever you use your windshield wipers. However, you might want to consider using your low beams, especially when driving in snow and fog. If conditions worsen and you cannot see, pull all the way off the road and turn on your emergency flashers to let other drivers know you are there.