PennDOT, Pennsylvania State Police Offer Safety Reminders for Winter Driving

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and Pennsylvania State Police held a media event today urging motorists to prepare their vehicles for winter and review safety information during Winter Driving Awareness Week. Winter Driving Awareness Week runs through January 11.

“Weather conditions can turn on a dime, and the best way to avoid a crash or becoming stranded during a storm is to postpone travel that isn’t absolutely necessary.” said Stevan Dietz, Assistant District Executive for Maintenance. “If staying home isn’t an option, be sure your vehicle is prepped and ready for the challenges winter can throw at it.”

PennDOT reminded motorists to have a trusted mechanic examine their vehicle’s brakes, battery, hoses, belts, heater and defroster if they haven’t already done so. Regular checks of fluid levels, windshield wipers, headlights and taillights, tire inflation and tread depth were also recommended.

Drivers were advised to refill or pack an emergency travel kit in the event they do become stranded. Suggested contents include a flashlight and batteries, jumper cables, first aid supplies, bottled water, and non-perishable food items.

Trooper Bruce Morris, Community Service Officer for Troop C, reminded motorists the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code mandates that headlights be activated any time the vehicle’s windshield wipers are in continuous or intermittent use due to precipitation or atmospheric moisture, including rain, snow, sleet or mist.

Morris also stressed the importance of clearing all snow and ice from a vehicle before driving. This provides an unobstructed view for the driver and eliminates the possibility of snow or ice falling from your vehicle and causing a roadway hazard. Under the vehicle code, the driver of a vehicle from which snow or ice is dislodged or falls shall be subject to a fine of up to $1,000 in cases where that snow or ices strikes another vehicle or pedestrian and causes death or serious bodily injury.

Being safe around plows is also part of cautious winter driving. PennDOT urged the following when sharing the road:

• Remain at least six car lengths behind an operating plow and be aware the plow is wider than the truck.
• Stay alert since plow trucks typically travel slower than regular traffic.
• Move as far away from the centerline as safely possible when a plow truck is traveling toward you. Remember that snow can obscure the width of the plow.
• Never attempt to pass or get between trucks plowing side by side in a “plow train.” The weight of the snow thrown from the plow can quickly cause smaller vehicles to lose control, creating a hazard for you, the equipment operators and nearby vehicles.
• Never travel next to a plow truck because there are blind spots where the operator can’t see. Plow trucks can also occasionally be moved sideways when hitting drifts or packed snow.
• Keep your lights on to help the operator better see your vehicle. Under Pennsylvania law, vehicle lights must be on when a vehicle’s wipers are on due to inclement weather.
Motorists are encouraged to “Know Before They Go” by checking conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles, including color-coded winter conditions on 2,900 miles, by visiting www.511PA.com. 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 950 traffic cameras. Users can also see plow truck statuses and travel alerts along a specific route using the “Check My Route” tool.

511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional Twitter alerts accessible on the 511PA website.

To join the conversation on social media use #PAWinter. Visit PennDOT.gov/winter and PennDOT.gov/safety for more information on winter driving safety.