With the arrival of the Memorial Day weekend comes the specter of hurricane season — which begins Wednesday — close behind. If you haven't devised a transportation plan for what you will do if Pinellas County is ordered to evacuate, now is a good time to sit down with your loved ones and map things out. This is especially important for those living on the beaches and barrier islands. We have the luxury of warnings with hurricanes and tropical storms, unlike the devastating tornadoes that terrorized the Midwest.
Here are a few reminders:
Know your evacuation route and make sure everyone in your family knows it. Many coastal neighborhoods only have one route in or out, so plan to hit the road sooner rather than later.
Agree on a rallying point with your loved ones. If you are not together when an evacuation is ordered, plan to meet up in a safe zone that is predetermined. This can save some frantic hours if cell phone service is out and access to some communities, such as the beaches, are closed by authorities.
To the degree that you can afford it, keep your cars gassed up. Those of us who have been through many a hurricane season know that when a serious storm is heading our way, grocery stores are stripped of supplies in a matter of hours and gas stations quickly run dry.
Pay close attention to vehicle maintenance throughout the summer. Your vehicle needs to be ready to allow you to pick up and go at a moment's notice, so get those thinning tires replaced and make sure all of your lights are operating properly.
Equip your vehicle with an emergency kit. You don't need to run out and buy a fancy kit; if money is tight, put one together yourself. A few emergency essentials include a flashlight, basic first aid items, bottled water, flares, jumper cables and a can of instant tire inflator and sealant. You also might want an empty gas can in case you need extra fuel.
Take some time to peruse Pinellas County's Emergency Management website, which has information and resources, including downloadable evacuation zone maps and evacuation routes. Go to pinellascounty.org/emergency.
Click It or Ticket effort runs through June 5
Law enforcement officers have stepped up enforcement of the seat belt law through the annual Click It or Ticket safety belt enforcement mobilization, which will continue until June 5. Violations are expensive: Front-seat belt violations can be $104 and unrestrained kids will cost drivers $154.
Officials are calling this a round-the-clock, zero tolerance initiative and say that because statistics show that passenger vehicle occupants are more likely to be riding without wearing seat belts at night, nighttime enforcement will be a priority. The state Department of Transportation says that among those killed in nighttime vehicle crashes in 2009, nearly two-thirds (62 percent) were not wearing seat belts at the time of their fatal crashes.
Until next week, happy and safe motoring.
Please e-mail Dr. Delay at DocDelay@gmail.com to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions. Questions selected for publication may be edited for space and clarity.