Many of us in upstate New York pride ourselves on our ability to tackle winter weather head-on. We scoff at more-temperate climes, where a mere inch or two of snow is enough to shut down schools and snarl roads.

In 2007, many Northeasterners had a laugh at a video posted online of drivers in Portland, Ore., spectacularly failing to navigate just a few inches of snow. That same winter, a series of storms dumped more than 2 feet in the Buffalo area, where officials and residents responded blithely by shoveling, plowing, salting the roads and generally getting on with it.

However, the surprise snowfall earlier this week proved that we are not immune to the dangers of winter weather, no matter how savvy we like to think we are.

Snowfall totals from Monday's mini-storm didn't break any records. Some higher elevations saw more than 4 inches; other areas had only a dusting of snow. Yet Delaware and Otsego counties saw a slew of accidents throughout the afternoon and evening as snow and ice caught drivers by surprise.

Most of the accidents were minor, according to the reports The Daily Star received. One, tragically, took the lives of two people and injured a third.

Zdzislaw Kisiolek, 70, and his wife, Danuta, 67, both of Worcester, died of massive trauma sustained when their Jeep Cherokee spun out of control and collided with another sport utility vehicle on state Route 23 on Monday afternoon.

Their deaths serve as a sobering reminder of the dangers we all face when we get behind the wheel. It doesn't take a sheet of black ice, a record-breaking blizzard or otherwise extreme conditions to cause a fatal crash. And no vehicle, no matter how expensive or well-equipped, can guarantee the safety of its passengers.

Each of us has a responsibility to give Mother Nature some credit, and take winter weather seriously. Drive a little slower. Give the cars around you a bit more room. And if it's just too nasty out there, stay off the roads. It's easy to feel that we "have to" make that trip to the grocery store _ or, even to work or school. And sometimes, we do. But consider if that drive is worth putting your life at risk, and sometimes, the answer should be "no."

Drivers aren't the only ones who can help ensure our safety during winter. Property owners can do their part by keeping sidewalks clear. Obeying snow parking rules will help local municipalities keep the streets clear of snow.

It's easy to get complacent when the sun is shining and winter still feels ages away. But Monday's storm showed us what can happen when we aren't prepared for snow and ice _ and it wasn't pretty.

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