WHEELING - Leave for your destination early, be aware of the road conditions and monitor your speed are among the most common words of advice local law enforcers offer motorists traveling this holiday weekend.
Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger said those traveling in inclement weather should avoid braking or accelerating sharply. He also encouraged motorists to remain patient behind the wheel and leave plenty of space between them and the vehicle they are following.
"It's important this time of the year to to be with family," Schwertfeger said, "so make sure you get there safely."
Speeding will certainly exacerbate poor road conditions, said Ohio County Sheriff Pat Butler, whose department responded to multiple vehicle accidents on Friday.
"Slow down and give yourself plenty of time to arrive at your destination," Butler said. "You'll stay safe, and if you come upon an accident or run into a delay, you'll still be on schedule."
AAA predicts 93.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the upcoming holidays, a 1.6 percent increase over the 91.8 million people who traveled one year ago. This year's expected travel volume is the second highest in the past decade, as more than one in four Americans are expected to take a trip between now and Jan. 1.
Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said the highest number of vehicle accidents occur during the first snowfall of the year. The Upper Ohio Valley is seeing its first major batch of snowflakes during this heavily-traveled weekend, he noted, creating a greater risk of danger on the roadways.
"When there's snow on the ground, you can't go the speed limit. You have to slow down," Abdalla said. "If there's somewhere you have to go, leave early and take your time so you can get there safe."
He also noted there will be low visibility this weekend, and reminded drivers of Ohio's law requiring vehicle headlights to be activated whenever wipers are in use.
Martins Ferry Police Chief John McFarland said the city's street department is prepared to deal with any bad weather this weekend, but motorists should remain cautious behind the wheel. Regardless, it is always smart to prepare, he added.