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State police use recent events to illustrate the importance of traveling safely

Motorists' response to a recent fatal accident east of Salem prompted officials from the Oregon State Police to advise the public about the dangers of relying solely on GPS units when traveling this holiday season.PMG PHOTO - Motorists trying to get around highway closures recently found themselves stranded on backcountry roads.

When Highway 22 was closed near the Marion County town of Idanha after a Bend truck driver was killed when his fuel tanker slid off the icy thoroughfare, some motorists seeking an alternative route around the crash were diverted by their GPS units onto U.S. Forest Service roads east of Detroit that are unsuitable for travel. The OSP dispatch unit received several calls from stranded motorists that attempted to circumvent the closed highway.

"One motorist became stuck in the snow and the other ran out of gas," an OSP statement said. "Often these Forest Service roads are not maintained in the winter and are snow covered. Additionally, there is little to no cell coverage in these areas."

OSP officials also pointed to a similar event that turned tragic in 2006 when a California family following their GPS was directed onto remote federal land in southern Oregon. The Kim family became stranded in the backcountry for days and the father perished when he went for help on foot. His wife and two young children were rescued.

"Travelers are urged to stay on maintained roads and state highways, while navigating the mountain passes," the OSP release said.

Motorists are also urged to carry with them an emergency kit while traveling and the OSP and the Oregon Department of Transportation suggested these items: a working flashlight and extra batteries; reflective triangles and brightly-colored cloth; compass, first-aid kit; exterior windshield cleaner; ice scraper and snow brush; wooden stick matches in a waterproof container; scissors and cord; nonperishable, high-energy foods like unsalted canned nuts, dried fruits and hard candy; bottled water; a properly inflated spare tire, wheel wrench and jack; shovel; jumper cables; tow rope; tire chains; a bag of salt or cat litter; a tool kit; and gloves, socks, caps and blankets.

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