Teens Can Slide into Danger While Winter Driving
Picture this. You wake up early for a dentist appointment and get in your car for a jam packed day of teeth cleaning and high school classes. Except, this morning is different. On your way to the dentist, you slip on a patch of ice.
This was precisely the situation Robert King found himself in three days before Christmas. King skated down an icy hill and flipped his car on the side of the road.
After totaling his car, King said, “It wasn’t the best way to start my day.”
King struggles to remember immediately after the crash and only recalls brief periods after flipping his car. “My dad found me. I remember him calling them,” King said. “He said his name and then I remember the ambulance doors being shut.”
Braden McIntire is no stranger to accidents involving teens driving in winter weather. In his internship with the York County Regional Police Department, McIntire rides along with officers and often sees how first responders handle teen crashes.
When a teen is in a crash, there are first responders “who act almost more as a parent than someone there to help,” McIntire said. “They try to educate as best as possible.”
As a driving instructor since 2005, Mr. Tom Bell said that educating teens is key to preventing crashes. He suggests that parents give their teens experience in winter weather.
“One of the best things I think can be done with teen drivers is after it snows, have the parents take them to a parking lot,” Mr. Bell said. “You get a feel as to what to do when you’re in that controlled environment rather than sliding for the first time on the open road.”
Driving for over two years, Robert King was never in a crash before and felt comfortable as a driver. He said the accident would have happened regardless of his skill or speed. “When you go over a hill like that, it doesn’t matter,” King said. “It was just the wrong place.”
McIntire recalled one of the teen accidents that he helped during his internship. “The teen driver in that wreck was not at fault,” McIntire said. “It was the simple fact that he was out on the road and in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
McIntire also thinks that driving in icy weather can be unpredictable and many teens are unprepared for that.
“I do believe teens are more susceptible to being involved in icy accidents than experienced drivers,” McIntire said. “Teens don’t have the knowledge and personal experience driving in those types of conditions.”
Mr. Bell occasionally instructs teen drivers in the snowy weather and thinks that knowledge and experience are vital to adapting to road conditions.
“Going down hills, put the car in the lowest gear,” Mr. Bell said. “Be heavy on the brake and steady speed. No jerky turns at the wheel. No acceleration, deceleration. That’s how you lose the chance of sliding.”
Mr. Bell said that the best say to stay safe in winter weather is through experienced and safe driving. “Drive the conditions. Don’t drive the speed. That’s key,” Bell said.
Brayden McIntire sees teens his age in winter driving accidents and empathizes with them.
“It makes you take a step back, look at where you are, what you are doing,” McIntire said, “and kind of resets you and makes you thankful.”
With a cut up face and severe pain, King spent a day and a half at the hospital and suffered a concussion and two spinal fractures.
“They said, ‘If you didn’t wear your seatbelt, you would’ve died,’’ King recalled what the hospital workers told him.
Due to his injuries, King was off work for three weeks and missed a week of school. He still feels neck and back pain especially when sitting in the desk seats and turning his head.
King got back on the road a week after the accident and now avoids ice whenever it is in the forecast. “I should have just stayed home that day,” King said. “That’d be my regret. I shouldn’t even have left.”
By Shana Carey