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Stay safe on our snowy roads: Editorial

Posted 1/16/19

We certainly avoided snowy weather for a huge chunk of the winter, but that has come to an end.

Forecasts call for snow late this week, including what could be quite a bit over the …

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Stay safe on our snowy roads: Editorial

Posted

We certainly avoided snowy weather for a huge chunk of the winter, but that has come to an end.

Forecasts call for snow late this week, including what could be quite a bit over the weekend.

That means driving will be an issue.

We urge you to be safe out there. We might catch a break because the bulk of the snow will be on Saturday and Sunday, meaning that we won’t be rushing to work on rough roads. If you don’t have to travel in bad weather, then don’t!

However, we all know that snowy roads, and the salting and plowing that follow, can quickly raise the hackles of impatient drivers who feel inconvenienced by the change in conditions but lack the foresight to plan ahead and leave more time to arrive at their destination.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and local municipalities tasked with clearing roads bear the brunt of the anger. They do not have an easy task, because everyone wants their road cleared first.

PennDOT has some excellent information on its website about how it goes about maintaining nearly 96,000 snow-lane miles using 2,200 trucks, plows and salt spreaders. 

During a storm, PennDOT will plow and salt major highways first before moving to the less-traveled rural roads, according to its website.

PennDOT also points out the simple math of plowing roads. Plow trucks often take two hours or more to complete a route and get back to the starting point.

That means, if snow is falling at 1 inch per hour, and a truck takes three hours to get back to the beginning of its route, 3 inches of snow will have fallen since it was last plowed.

Also, if you are concerned that you don’t see trucks out salting roads, PennDOT points out that salt is more effective on roads that have more traffic and in temperatures above 25 degrees, and that crews generally will not pretreat with salt brine when a storm is forecast to start as rain, because it will get washed away.

And if you’re concerned about having snow pushed back into your driveways by plows, use this simple trick. Shovel snow to the right side of the driveway, as you are facing the road.

That way, the plow can’t push it back in front. It will simply push it farther up the road.

Here are a few more basics from PennDOT:

• Carry a winter emergency travel kit.

• Listen to weather and travel advisories, but if you don’t have to travel in bad weather, don’t.

• Keep your gas tank at least half full.

• Slow down and increase following distance.

• Carry a cellphone.

• Do not use cruise control while driving on snow-covered roads.

• Remove ice and snow from windows, mirrors and all vehicle lights before you drive and as often as needed, as well as from the hood and roof of your vehicle. State law states that if snow or ice from your vehicle strikes a vehicle or person and causes death or injury, you can be ticketed.

• If you do become stranded, it’s better to stay with your vehicle until help arrives. Run the engine every hour or so, but make sure the tailpipe is clear and keep the downwind window cracked open.

Simple precautions can keep you and your family safe. Understand why your road might not be plowed. Allow more time if you have to drive. Be patient.

While none of us like to drive in snow, these simple tips will help prevent this weekend from being a deadly one on our roads.