TxDOT offers winter driving tips

BY ELSA CAVAZOS
STAFF WRITER

HARLINGEN — Cold temperatures can be great to get in the holiday season mood but not so much when it comes to driving.

In accordance with its “Be Safe. Drive Smart” campaign, TxDOT is reminding drivers to be cautious and stay safe once they hit the roads this winter.

While the Rio Grande Valley rarely receives snow, fog can be hazardous to drivers, as well as iced bridges and overpasses.

“We recommend to always use headlights. It is very difficult to see from a distance when not used,” said TxDOT public information officer Octavio Saenz about driving in fog.

“Essentially down here in the Valley we don’t have to worry a lot about cold weather or rain but whenever we do have rain, snow, or ice — because we’ve had it in the past — that is when people really freak out,” he said.

Another important thing to look out for is speed, Saenz said.

“One of the most important things to do is slow down. The speed limits are based on normal weather conditions, not on winter road conditions. You don’t have to go 70 miles per hour, you can go less,” Saenz said.

Besides slowing down, he added it is important to maintain a distance three times farther than normal when driving in adverse winter weather.

This gives the driver more space to maneuver the vehicle or an escape route in case the vehicle starts to slide, according to Saenz.

“The big caution we tell people is to watch out for bridges, overpasses and any shaded areas. They tend to freeze first, they have airflow from the top and the bottom,” Saenz said.

Saenz also said incidents increase during winter weather because drivers fail to drive according to the conditions.

“There is a misconception that high beams are the best but they are not,” Saenz said about driving in fog.

“Fog reflects the lights back to you and when using high beams you reduce visibility. Always use a low beam. The three most important things are to slow down, keep your distance and focus on what you are doing,” he said.