As students wrap up coursework for the semester and prepare to hit the road for winter break, Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols, who, before joining Bowdoin’s ranks in 2005, logged 27 years with the Maine State Police, offers words of advice that are good for anyone traveling over the holidays.
“¢ Most highway crashes are caused by a combination of speed, driver inattention/distraction, and following too closely. So slow down, wake up, and back off!
“¢ Most winter crashes are the result by driving too fast for the road and weather conditions.
“¢ For optimum control, keep both hands on the wheel at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions. The secret to avoiding skidding out of control on snow and ice is to make SMOOTH and GRADUAL motions when steering, braking and accelerating. Picture this, if you will: There is a pitcher of milk (or beverage of your choice) on the hood of your car, and there is an egg between your foot and the gas and brake pedals. Try to drive so that you don’t spill a drop or smash the egg.
“¢ Wear your seat belt; the odds are that that simple act will prevent serious injury or save your life in a crash. The driver is responsible for making sure all passengers are buckled.
“¢ Texting while driving is illegal in 35 states and dangerous in 50. The minimum fine for texting while driving in Maine is $100.
“¢ Maine has a “Move Over Law” that requires that drivers pass stopped emergency vehicles at a prudent speed and move one lane over, if it is safe to do so.
“¢ Make sure your tires and wipers are in good condition and all your lights are working.
“¢ Don’t forget an ice scraper and snow brush. Remove ALL snow and ice from your vehicle.
“¢ Use your headlights day and night, good weather and bad. This helps other drivers and pedestrians see you sooner. Watch for pedestrians and bicyclists, especially at dusk and at night.
“¢ Be prepared for an emergency. Keep extra warm clothing, hat, boots and gloves in your vehicle in case of a breakdown or accident. A bright flashlight can be invaluable.
“¢ If you break down or have an accident, pull as far to the right as possible and stay well clear of oncoming traffic. Turn on your hazard flashers. Call 911 or AAA for assistance. Stay inside your vehicle unless it is unsafe to do so.
“¢ You will be arrested for drunk driving if you have a blood alcohol content of 0.08 (but they can arrest you for less). So don’t drive after drinking, period. There is “zero tolerance” for drivers under age 21 who have consumed any amount of alcohol at all, and a violation will result in a license suspension of 1-2 years.
“¢ One more thing: State Troopers across the country will be engaged in a coordinated effort of strict enforcement to reduce the number of fatal crashes during the holiday period. Don’t be that guy!