GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — This week it will be one year since a chain of accidents on a foggy, smoky Interstate 75 near Gainesville killed 11 people.
The Florida Highway Patrol and the state have taken several steps to prevent a repeat of the Jan. 29 tragedy. The accidents happened shortly after the highway patrol had reopened the road, which had been closed for low visibility.
The FHP has reviewed all of its relevant policies governing road closures. A watch supervisor in each troop is now responsible for the oversight of all significant incidents.
It has trained more than 6,000 sworn Florida Turnpike Enterprise radio communications members and reserve troopers on road closure procedures and protocols.
The agency also now conducts an annual review its road closure protocols with the Florida Forest Service.
If you're driving in unfavorable conditions, insurance giant State Farm issued the following tips for driving in bad weather:
- Turn on the low beams. Day or night, headlights should be on and set to low beam.
- Wait it out. If you're having trouble seeing, safely pull over to the right side – well out of the traffic lane – and turn on your emergency flashers. Wait until visibility improves before continuing.
- Turn on wipers. Obvious, right? But make sure your wipers are replaced every six to twelve months for optimal performance.
- Use headlights. Visibility is usually compromised in rainy conditions. Headlights can help.
- Keep windows clear. The defroster or air conditioner may help keep windows and mirrors clear.
- Be patient. Take it slower than normal. Roads are often more slippery than they appear.
- Go around. Never cross a flooded roadway because it's tough to tell how deep the water is. Take the time to find an alternate route. The last thing you want is to get caught in a flash flood.
- Turn on headlights and wipers.
- Listen to the radio. Tune into a local weather station for storm and traffic updates
State Farm also recommends drivers check at least twice a year to ensure the equipment is in working order. This means spare tires are properly inflated, first-aid supplies are current, all other supplies are fully stocked, and the cell phone charger is compatible with either a power outlet or an USB port in your car. For additional information and emergency roadside tips, visit http://learningcenter.statefarm.com/safety-2/auto-2/worst-case-winter-driving-survival/.