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February 16, 2013

Experts offer travel safety tips

Driving in winter is challenging anywhere. The ice makes roads slick, causing skidding. Icy windows hamper visibility. Tires take a beating on rough roads. Wind and ice can cause trees or tree limbs to come crashing down on busy roads. Brakes lock and drivers careen off course. Some of these mishaps result in damage, injury and, at times, even death.

The initial calamity may be complicated by mechanical breakdown, cellphone failure, or getting hit by a car after leaving the protection of your own car to go for help on foot through a blinding storm.

Complicating these risk factors is the geography of the greater Oneonta area, featuring the Catskill Mountains, lots of fog and many winding, narrow, gravel roads. Winter conditions here, especially if one is traveling when a storm is in progress, can be harrowing.

Fortunately, there are people locally whose business it is to advise, educate and train motorists to cope with winter driving dangers. One of them is Al Vigna, who teaches driver’s education, as well as technology, to the students of Roxbury Central School.

Vigna advises his students, or any winter driver, to “slow down and stay alert. This combined with allowing additional space between you and the vehicles around you help create a margin of safety and reduce the risk of a crash considerably.”

David White, who teaches through the Baxter Driving School operating in Sidney and Oneonta and other nearby communities, takes a hands-on approach to teaching new drivers how to cope with icy roads. 

“I take the new students to a parking lot, an empty one, or some other place where there isn’t going to be a lot of traffic, some nice, safe place,” White explained. “After letting the student get up some speed, I slam on the brakes just so they can see and get a feel for what a car is going to do out there when that happens.”

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