With winter fast approaching, Troop Ben Gardner is expecting the unexpected, as he says all motorists should when there’s snow and ice on the roadways.
The 45-year-old Gardner, who goes by Trooper Ben, has about 84,000 followers on his Twitter account, @TrooperBenkhp.
“People know me all around the world,” says the law enforcement celebrity whose goal is helping folks drive safer.
Trooper Ben has been on Twitter about five years as the Kansas Highway Patrol’s Public Information Officer for North Central Kansas.
“I decided to dip my toe into social media to be more efficient in delivering safety messaging to the public or just to humanize how the public sees law enforcement,” he says.
“Social media has been a wonderful tool for me because it has allowed me to tell my story and to be real and smile and to bridge distances with people,” Trooper Ben says.
He has been with the Kansas Highway Patrol for 21 years after a stint in the Army. In those two decades, he’s driven on many a wintery day.
“What I always tell people first off is to know your opponent,” he says. “Mother Nature puts on a pretty good fight at times against us, and we need to be ready to go against her if we’re trying to travel on the roadways.”
It’s good to check the weather forecast before heading out.
“When you start your travels, make sure you’re prepared for that,” Trooper Ben says “Is your vehicle ready? Is it full of gas? Is it well maintained? Are you prepared to have a successful trip?”
It’s also important to think of yourself, too.
“Are as prepared as your vehicle?” he says. “Ask yourself if you got enough sleep. Do you take enough breaks while on the road? That’s important in any weather.”
Most wrecks are caused by someone driving too fast for conditions. And that’s in any weather, he says.
“No one expects to be involved in a crash,” he says. “We need to manage ourselves the best we can.”
TROOPER BEN’S TOP TIPS
Here are some of Trooper Ben’s tips for safe winter driving.
1. Have a designated texter. “Tell a passenger they have the phone and you’ll take care of the task of driving,” he says. “You’re looking down at your phone when you should be looking up. It’s a significant problem.”
2. Slow down. “People drive way too fast. They’re driving normal speeds in abnormal conditions.”
3. Leave plenty of space. “We need to increase our following distance.”
4. Don’t brake too hard. “When it’s snow-packed, or bad, icy roads, we need to be easy on, easy off.”
5. Do everything slower. “The accelerator. Your turns. ... You’re not doing anything fast because anything that’s will probably have some hazardous or negative impact to your travels.”
6. Check those wipers. “Are they good? Make sure you have windshield fluid. Make sure your belts are good. A well-maintained vehicle will treat you well.”
7. A half-tank of gas. “For us troopers, that’s what we do. We keep our cars at a half-tank or more. You may be there a long time. You want to be warm.”
8. Floormats for friction. “If you need to get unstuck, take your floormat and put it under your tire. That may give you a little grip. Use it to kneel on if you change a tire.”
9. Dial it up. “Know the non-emergency number in the state. In Kansas, it’s *47 to the Kansas Highway Patrol Dispatch. Each state has a unique number. In Missouri it’s *55. It’s good to know if you break down.”
10. Stay in your car. “If you slide off the road or there’s been a crash, if you’re out of your vehicle, you’re putting yourself at risk. You’ve got a lot of protection in your vehicle. Millions of dollars have been put into designing them to keep you safe.”