Drivers warned against "false confidence" during thaw

As the big chill comes to an end and the thaw finally sets in, gardai are warning motorists to be extra vigilant on the county's roads.

As the big chill comes to an end and the thaw finally sets in, gardai are warning motorists to be extra vigilant on the county's roads.

As many of the county's roadways begin to clear of the heavy snow and thick ice that resulted from the second prolonged cold snap of the winter, slushy and wet roads still remain a danger, as does the added hazard of many new potholes appearing on road surfaces.

Many main routes, as well as some back roads and country lanes, have largely cleared of snow only to reveal deep surface holes that can cause serious potential danger to motorists.

Gardai have issued a warning stating with the increase in the daytime temperatures they are asking motorists to be extra careful and be aware of a "false confidence" in this thaw.

Further night freezing temperatures will make slushy/wet roads very dangerous and extra care is needed.

Garda Sergeant Brian Whelan said drivers should be conscious of the safety of pedestrians and of other drivers by adopting increased stopping distances, driving with dipped headlights and ensuring all lights and windows are cleaned for good visibility.

Sergeant Whelan added: "We would ask people to keep in contact with neighbours, particularly those living alone, to call around and check on them and to not assume that someone else will do so."

Pedestrians have also been advised to be vigilant as untreated footpaths remain extremely dangerous as the snow turns to wet ice making them very slippery but gardai are also have issued a warning against the public walking on roads where ever possible.

"Pedestrians should avoid, where possible, walking on the road and wear hi-vis jacket, and be conscious of motorists on the road. Footpaths will remain slippery so keep hands out of pockets where possible," Garda Sergeant Brian Whelan said.

In the run to Christmas the HSE West confirmed they had experienced a rise in the number attending A&E departments with injuries relating to falling on icy surfaces.

Meanwhile, Donegal North East Fianna Fil TD Niall Blaney has issued a safety warning to all road users as they travel to visit family and friends over the holiday period Christmas. The local Deputy has expressed serious concern about the treacherous driving conditions in Donegal due to the extreme weather.

"The Garda's annual Christmas road safety campaign has been hampered by the severe weather so it's up to all of us to take safety into our own hands. Secondary routes are particularly dangerous at the moment and some of Donegal's most notorious accident black spots are more treacherous than ever," said Deputy Blaney.

"For those who are travelling over the Christmas period, there are a number of tips to ensure you arrive safe at your destination. Before setting out on your journey remember to check your tyres and make sure your windows and mirrors are clear. Maintaining clear visibility in these conditions is vital, so bring a scraper with you," he added.

"Please drive slowly and keep well behind the vehicle in front of you. Remember that your tyres' grip will be seriously diminished on icy roads so make sure to break gently and drive in the highest gear possible to avoid skidding."

"I wish to thank members of the defence forces and local county council workers who have gone beyond the call of duty to clear our roads as much as possible in these unprecedented conditions. Donegal County Council's present stock of pure salt is 250 tonnes with an additional 200 tonnes of salt/grit mix. 1,050 tonnes will be distributed throughout Donegal over the next three days. Subsequent deliveries of salt will be made by the 4th January, 2011, at the latest."

Concluding, Deputy Blaney reiterated his appeal: "Far too many lives are still lost on our roads and Donegal has had more than its fair share of tragedies. I don't want to see any more families suffer the loss of a loved one because of unsafe driver behaviour. Christmas is a particularly bad time for crashes and this year we have the extra dangers of snow and ice, so it's important now more than ever to take every precaution possible."