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INDIANAPOLIS — The first touch of winter weather in central Indiana is prompting area police to urge Hoosiers to get into the mindset of winter driving safety this season.

The old cliche’ is that everyone forgets how to drive in snow during the warmer months, until the winter weather returns for a “crash course” reminder. Indiana State Police Sergeant John Perrine says there is an element of truth to that.

“Especially when that first snow of the year comes, complacency really comes into play when it comes to people’s driving habits,” Perrine said. “They get so used to, for so many months, driving on clear dry roads that the first snowfall often catches them off guard and we see a significant increase in crashes.”

Preparing for winter driving, Perrine said, is really a mental exercise that starts before a driver gets behind the wheel.

“Start thinking about what do I need to do,” he said. “Maybe leave a little bit earlier, slow down a little bit.”

Last year, a mid-December snow storm contributed to a dramatic increase in crashes across the state. State Police responded to 401 crashes across Indiana on December 15 and 16, compared to 114 crashes the weekend before on December 8 and 9. That’s a roughly 250-percent increase.

In the Indianapolis area, ISP responded to 182 crashes on December 15 and 16, compared to 39 crashes on December 8 and 9.  That amounts to a more than 360-percent increase.

Perrine says Hoosiers should start mentally preparing now to deal with whatever this winter brings to central Indiana.

“Almost every crash that we investigate on a snow-covered roadway has something to do with a vehicle traveling too fast for those conditions,” he said.

In addition to slowing down and avoiding tailgating, Perrine urges Hoosiers to remember that bridges, overpasses and ramps typically freeze first and thaw last.

“People get up to highway speeds on a dry interstate and they hit that exit ramp that’s ice or snow covered and they’re going too fast,” Perrine said.

And while tailgating is always discouraged, Perrine drivers need to be patient with others who may be trying to share the clearest lane on a roadway.

“What happens is somebody will get into that more clear lane and drive a little bit slower than the traffic behind them,” he said.  “And so they feel the pressure to have to move over because somebody is tailgating them.”

Indiana State Police and the Indiana Department of Transportation each have winter driving safety tips listed on their website.