Safety must be top priority on winding winter roadways

Feather Publishing
Editorial Opinion


Two big-rig crashes in the Feather River Canyon in successive weeks underscore the dangers we face when driving that very scenic, yet extremely treacherous, stretch of Highway 70.

Last week, a big-rig driver from Newman was lucky. He suffered minor injuries after his tractor-trailer veered off the road, struck an embankment and overturned near the Paxton bridge. The accident sent his cargo of scrap metal flying in all directions. Luckily, there were no other cars in the vicinity or it likely would have been a tragic encounter.

The previous week’s accident was tragic.

A Chico man was killed when his tractor-trailer crashed and burst into flames near the Chambers Creek bridge. Emergency responders called the accident scene “horrific” as flames melted the truck and the roadway, and scorched the rock embankment 50 feet above the roadway.

It seems like we are hit with tragic accidents like this every year. And it is worth reminding everyone to be on guard when traveling Plumas County roads — particularly the winding path in the Canyon.

The posted speed limits — especially approaching blind corners — absolutely have to be taken seriously. When the temperatures drop, and the road surface along the river turns to ice, you can figuratively throw the posted speed limits out the window; they simply don’t apply when the road is a sheet of ice. In some situations, even driving 10 mph is too fast.

Although the most recent accidents have happened in the Canyon, we need to be wary on all county roads. Soon they will be covered with snow and ice, and traveled by people heading to and from holiday events. Safety might not be on their minds.

But it has to be on ours.

Be on guard against other people who might be driving erratically. If you suspect they are impaired, pull over and call 911.

Don’t tailgate, regardless of whether you are running late for work or an appointment. A few minutes won’t make that much difference.

The California Highway Patrol has a strong presence in Plumas County. It is comforting to know that there is usually a patrolman on duty in the Canyon, and other remote roads in the county, if he is needed. Just the sight of the black-and-white patrol car should be a reminder for us to slow down.

But, ultimately, the responsibility is ours.

And being safe is more than simply slowing down. It means making sure your car is in working order — the lights, the tires, the windshield wipers. If you haven’t tuned up your car or truck recently, now is a good time to do it. Make sure you have an emergency kit and a spare tire. And, naturally, don’t attempt to drive anywhere if you have been drinking. Choose a designated driver before heading to holiday parties.

Hopefully, the recent crashes in the Canyon can serve as a reminder to all of us about the importance of safe driving.

Feather Publishing wishes everyone a safe winter season on the road.

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