March Comes In Like a Lion
Is it spring or winter? March Madness may be in the air -- and we're all looking forward to those St Patrick's Day celebrations -- but the month is one of those times when the weather can turn on a dime.
If you're a driver, March is a time to use extra caution on the highways and byways of Westminster and Baltimore. Here's why:
One moment, it's warm and dry, the next there's a downpour or a snow storm. And when it snows, more often than not, we have a messy slush by afternoon.
So, March is a dicey time on our roads. It's actually one of our wettest months of the year (after July and September). Road surfaces are slicker. Days may be brighter but the sun is still low enough in the sky to cause dazzle dangers after showers.
- Watch out for more foot-sloggers. Brighter, warmer weather brings our more pedestrians onto our sidewalks and street crossings.
- Same goes for bicyclists. The good weather will bring them out in droves. Remember the golden rule for driving among cyclists: Share the road.
- Remember too that humans aren't the only ones who are seized by March Madness and better weather. On rural roads particularly, but sometimes on our urban streets, watch out for animals that are newly emerged from hibernating and full of frisk for the mating season! Early morning is the most likely time to encounter critters.
- Watch out too for potholes. All those ruts and holes created during the winter months are still likely lurking to trap us before our city gets around to repairing them. While your main focus is on the road ahead, quickly scan the surface you're about to drive over.
- Wet roads require up to four times your normal stopping distance. If road surfaces are wet, slow down and drop back from the car in front. Use you sun visor or glasses to eliminate road glare.
- Try to avoid large puddles -- you never know how deep they are -- but if you go through one, test your brakes immediately after.
St Patrick's Day
More than one-in-ten of us are of Irish descent here in Maryland. And for the other 9, why not join the celebrations anyway?
But beware! St Patrick's Day on March 17 is actually one of the worst days of the year for DUI car accidents, claiming more than a hundred lives nationwide in just 24 hours.
This year, it falls on a weekend, opening up the opportunity for more people to enjoy more celebrations. Fine. But it raises the risk of more over-the-limit drivers. Don't be one of them -- and be extra vigilant for other drivers who shouldn't be behind the wheel.
You can be sure too that police patrols will be stepped up in key areas. So, here are a few more tips for safe driving on St Paddy's Day:
- If you're going somewhere else to celebrate, plan your journey in advance and allow extra time to get there.
- Appoint a designated driver for your celebrations -- someone who isn't going to consume alcohol at all.
- If you can't do that, consider using public transport or cabs to get you to your destination
- How about using one of the Sober Ride services like Be My DD in Baltimore (1-877-823-6933)? Maryland's Tipsy? Taxi! Program provides free taxi rides for anyone over 21 who has been drinking at an establishment in Baltimore. Within the metro area call 1-877-963-TAXI for a free ride home.
- If you are with someone who is impaired and about to drive, take their keys from them and try to arrange other transportation.
The switch to Daylight Saving Time in March adds an extra challenge. Suddenly, darker mornings can catch out commuter drivers on the busy highways of Westminster and Baltimore. Road accidents nationally are usually up by 15 to 20 percent in the immediate aftermath of the March 11 change.
If you drive around what was previously the first light of dawn, it's suddenly dark. So, leave a little earlier to allow extra time getting to your destination.
The loss of that hour in bed also takes about a week or so to get out of our systems. Till then, we're potentially vulnerable to driver fatigue. Again, allow extra time for your journey and hit the coffee pot before you leave.
If it's possible to work from home for a few days, this is a good time to do so.
And if you're used to driving home in the dark, you may suddenly find it's brighter than expected. So, bring those sunglasses along for the ride!
Towards the end of the month, spring break for most of the state's public schools means more kids out and about, enjoying their first taste of good weather but posing an additional risk to drivers.
Take extra care in residential areas!
Out of Storage
If you have seasonal vehicles like ATVs, off-roaders or trailers that are stored over winter, now would be a good time to check them out before putting them on (or off) the road.
The Really Big Issue
Wherever you're driving and no matter how safely you drive, your chance of being involved in an auto accident are heightened at this time of year.
It's absolutely critical that you have good car insurance -- not just for accidents that you may be blamed for but also against the risk that another at-fault driver doesn't have insurance at all.
This is a good time to check your auto insurance cover to make certain you're fully protected. If you need help or have questions, please call Kirby Insurance. We'd be glad to help.
In the meanwhile, enjoy the steadily improving weather of March (fingers crossed) -- and have a great and safe St Patrick's Day!