It seems like a simple answer, but often there is more to the question than meets the eye.  With such an inherent pressure to continue life as normal during challenging weather conditions, many people feel compelled to travel when, sometimes, it’s best they never leave the house.

Therein lies the dilemma.

If William Shakespeare were alive today, his famous line might be amended to read, “To drive or not to drive. That is the question.” And, truth be told, that is probably where you need to start.

Begin your inner dialogue with that simple question.  “What is it that is so pressing that leads me to believe I must travel when rain is sheeting, roads are flooding, sleet is falling, ice is building, snow is piling and it seems Armageddon looms on the horizon?

Only you can determine the need to drive with the risks inherent during your travel.

If you decide to drive after all, here are a few tips and insights that might make your journey a bit safer.

Before you begin your journey, do your research.  Locally, you can watch your favorite news channel or listen to your favorite radio station. Often, the meteorologists/weathermen employed by those media sources have great insight as to what is happening or what weather conditions are headed your way.

The internet is another great source of information.  The National Weather Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (http://weather.gov/hgx) is an excellent source of information as is AccuWeather (http://accuweather.com), the Weather Channel (http://weather.com) and Harris County’s very own Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (http://www.hcoem.org/) and Harris County Flood Warning System- FWS (http://www.harriscountyfws.org/).  These sites, although far from being all-inclusive, will help you determine existing weather conditions and will often identify road and bridge closures as well as reported areas of flooding.

After you have done your research, make certain your vehicle is ready for the road. If you are traveling in inclement weather, it is important to make certain your tires are up to the challenge. If your tires appear slick, have inadequate tread or have damage to them it is best the tires be replaced before traveling.

Make certain you have plenty of fuel and the headlamps, brake lamps, turn signal indicators and all other auxiliary lighting required under law is functioning.

Check the fluid levels and if the battery has been acting up, get it replaced.  If you can’t replace the battery, make certain you bring the jumper cables.

And those pesky windshield wipers?  Check and replace those as well, after all, you can’t drive safely if you can’t see the road ahead of you.

If travelling in the cold, bring blankets just in case your vehicle becomes disabled or you become stranded.

Make certain someone you trust knows where you are going, the route you are using, and how long you expect your journey to last.  If something goes awry, there is at least one person who can assist you.

Make certain your cellular phone is charged, but remember, traveling during inclement weather takes a deep amount of concentration.  It is strongly advised you do not talk or text when driving.

Once on the road, remember the basics. Decease your speed, increase your spacing with the vehicle in front of you, look for pooled water and ice, never drive into water when you are uncertain of the depth and remember it takes longer to stop when the roads are slick.

In the end, the most effective gauge of safety is you.  If it feels too dangerous to drive, then heed your own advice. If you must travel, leave earlier, make your preparations before you leave and always let someone know where you are going.

With that in mid,  always know where you are.  Keep a lookout for the mile-markers you pass or the streets you cross. That way, should you have need, you can send out a call for help.

If you find yourself in a situation where your safety becomes a concern, remember fire departments and police departments go into an active alert status during periods of bad weather. Call 9-1-1 and tell them where you are and that you are in need of help. We will be there should the need arise.

Remember, this list is far from all-inclusive. You are the greatest champion of your own safety.  Be safe and best wishes from your team at Harris County Constable’s Office Precinct 2.