DES MOINES, Iowa — The sights and sounds of melting snow can be deceiving. “The weather gets nice and we think about other things and the sun comes out and shining and we aren’t thinking about driving like we should be,” said Clive Police Lt. Mark Rehberg.
The slush and water on roads during the day is slowly re-freezing as temperatures dip overnight. Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek says it is causing chaos during. “Once you lose control, that car is going to do what it is going to do.”
It left a trail of destruction Tuesday morning around 9:30 a.m. in the 4400 block of SE 14th Street. A truck in the northbound lane hit a patch of black ice, swerved across the median and hit a southbound car which smashed into a local business.
“That’s why they call it black ice. It sneaks up on you and you don’t see it,” Parizek said. “You’ve got the mix of that light ice and higher speeds. Folks not giving each other enough space and that’s the bad combination that we are seeing.”
During the morning commute in Des Moines from around 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. on both Monday and Tuesday, police say there were 20 crashes in those six hours alone. That is a number that usually takes a full 24 hours to hit under normal winter driving conditions. Parizek said, “We need to remain vigilant with our winter driving because we will have that melt, that refreeze and then we come out in the morning and we have ice on the roads that we weren’t expecting.”
Rehberg said the metro suburbs weren’t immune either. “If you look at West Des Moines, Urbandale, Clive, Waukee and Windsor Heights, within about a three-hour period we had 21 crashes. On a normal day we probably won’t see 21 crashes in a day.”
The majority of these crashes are happening on the interstate. One key to always being in control can be as simple as avoiding cruise control. Rehberg said, “If somebody is out there in the morning, make sure that cruise control is off. It’s pretty easy to lose control of a car if you don’t.”
While the weather may dip up and down creating unpredictable driving conditions, law enforcement hopes that Iowa drivers’ attention to safe driving stays steady. “The temperature roller coaster, while we enjoy the warmer piece of it, when it crashes it’s going to create that ice. Sometimes you won’t even see it,” said Parizek.
Another winter driving safety tip is to increase your following distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead of you.