In the Central Valley, driving conditions can be challenging all year long, but with winter weather approaching commuting to school can be much more hazardous.
“It is much more difficult to see clearly when it is dark, cloudy or rainy,” said Amy Armstrong, the public information officer for the University Police Department (UPD).
Fresno State has many students who commute long distances daily. Some students spend hours on the road and are concerned about the changes in the weather. During winter months, reduced visibility makes it hard for drivers to commute safely. Some drivers are forced to make changes in their daily routine by leaving home earlier and driving slower.
During the winter months, fog is a primary factor in collisions. Some students may forget how dangerous winter weather can be.
According to the California Highway Patrol, in 2007 and 2008 there were a total of 172 collisions which resulted in 225 injuries and nine fatalities in Fresno County.
Safety officials suggest that students take the necessary precautions, which includes avoiding dangerous driving practices.
Armstrong said the UPD will distribute flyers and brochures to help educate students about winter weather safety.
Some Fresno State students, however, already use several strategies to commute safely.
“I can say that I am scared when it’s foggy. I just take my time or try to leave my house earlier,” said Crystal Torres, senior liberal arts major.
Torres commutes from Firebaugh, Calif., a small town 43 miles west of Fresno, every Tuesday and Thursday.
It normally takes Torres about 45 minutes to get to school, but during harsh weather it takes her up to an hour and 15 minutes.
Harsh weather conditions can delay students by doubling the time it usually takes them to commute.
“Driving in from Mendota, [Calif.] to Fresno in the fog makes me really nervous and forces me to drive safely, which can make me late to school, especially since I have many morning classes,” said Erica Alvarez, senior pre-nursing major.
Alvarez said due to all of the accidents that have happened on local freeways, she gets really intimidated and on occasions even misses class.
UPD’s checklist for safe driving:
Armstrong suggested several tips for students commuting this upcoming winter season:
– Slow down and increase following distance.
– Check the battery and all the proper fluids.
– Check headlights and tail lights, for visibility.
– Make sure the tires have traction control over the vehicle.
– Replace windshield wipers so that they clean properly.
– Ensure windows are clean for visibility.
– Ensure defroster works properly.
– Make sure headlights are on for visibility to other vehicles.
– Be aware of other vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclist and other things around you so you can respond properly.
– Scan ahead so you can react appropriately during winter weather.