PennDOT Winter Driving Safety Tips

pennDOT-logoThe Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has urged motorists to prepare their vehicles and take time to familiarize themselves with winter safety laws.

“It is important for the public to think ahead and take a few simple steps before they travel,” Governor Tom Wolf said. “If they haven’t already, I urge all Pennsylvanians to be prepared for winter driving as the season continues.”

PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards says, “Winter safety starts with all of us, and that includes the equipment we’re using,” Richards said. “Drivers should prepare their vehicles by having a trusted mechanic check the cooling system, battery, hoses, drive belts, tires and wiper blades to ensure they are in good condition and functioning properly.”

Drivers should also frequently check all fluid levels, lights and wiper blades as well as tires which should be also be examined often for the correct level of air pressure and adequate tire-tread depth to perform on ice and snow.

Finally, the traveling public should also prepare or restock a vehicle emergency kit. The kit should contain items such as non-perishable food, water, first-aid supplies, warm clothes, a blanket, cell phone charger and a small snow shovel. Motorists should tailor their kits to any specific needs that they or their families have such as baby supplies, extra medication and pet supplies.

Motorists should also be aware that all vehicles should be fully clear of ice and snow before winter travel. If snow or ice is dislodged or falls from a moving vehicle and strikes another vehicle or pedestrian causing death or serious bodily injury, the operator of that vehicle could receive a $200 to $1,000 fine.

When winter weather does occur, PennDOT asks drivers to be extra cautious around operating snow-removal equipment. When encountering a plow truck, drivers should:

  • Stay at least six car lengths behind an operating plow truck and remember that the main plow is wider than the truck.
  • winter-tires-320x240Be alert since plow trucks generally travel much more slowly than other traffic.
  • When a plow truck is traveling toward you, move as far away from the center of the road as is safely possible, and remember that snow can obscure the actual snow plow width.
  • Never try to pass or get between several 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 nearby vehicles.
  • Never travel next to a plow truck since there are blind spots where the operator can’t see and they can occasionally be moved sideways when hitting drifts or heavy snowpack.
  • Keep your lights on to help the operator better see your vehicle. Also remember that under Pennsylvania state law, vehicle lights must be on every time a vehicle’s wipers are on due to inclement weather.

In addition to driving safely around plows, motorists are urged to drive according to conditions. If motorists encounter snow or ice-covered roads, they should slow down, increase their following distance and avoid distractions. Last winter in Pennsylvania, preliminary data shows that there were 252 crashes resulting in 129 injuries on snowy, slushy or ice-covered roadways where aggressive-driving behaviors such as speeding or making careless lane changes were factors.

To help make decisions as to whether to travel during winter weather, motorists are encouraged to “Know Before You 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 850 traffic cameras. Users can also see plow truck statuses and travel alerts along a specific route using the “Check My Route” tool.

splash-screen-on-android511PA 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.

PennDOT has created a Winter Safety media center including social-media sized graphics highlighting winter driving preparations and operations at www.penndot.gov in the “Media Center” under the “Connect With Us” footer.

For more information on safe winter travel, an emergency kit checklist and information on PennDOT’s winter operations including a video, visit PennDOT.gov/winter.

Additional winter driving and other highway safety information is available at PennDOT.gov/safety.

Governor and PennDot Prepares for Winter Season

511With the winter season approaching, Governor Tom Wolf has announced that a new online tool is available to inform the public of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) operations this winter. He made the announcement in conjunction with a news conference that PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards held today outlining the agency’s plans for winter services, and sharing job opportunities and driver preparation tips.

New this winter, the public can view a color-coded map of when each of the nearly 40,000 miles of state-maintained roadway was last plowed by visiting the www.511PA.com plow trucks section. The information is the latest enhancement made possible by PennDOT’s Automated Vehicle Location (AVL) technology, which uses units in each of the more than 2,200 department-owned and rented plow trucks to send a cellular signal showing truck locations.

The AVL program, started in 2014, is part of Governor Tom Wolf’s GO-TIME initiative that leverages inter-agency coordination and collaboration to maximize efficiency, modernize state government operations, and provide the highest quality services.

During the news conference at the PennDOT maintenance facility in Norristown, Montgomery County, Richards noted that PennDOT is actively seeking approximately 480 temporary equipment operators statewide for the winter season to supplement the department’s full-time staff. Details on minimum requirements, such as possession of a CDL, as well as application information, are available at www.employment.pa.gov. Through the same website, job seekers can apply for seven other types of non-operator, winter positions such as diesel and construction equipment mechanics, welders, clerks and more.

In discussing PennDOT’s readiness for the season ahead, Richards said that the department has compiled its information about winter services and winter-driving resources for motorists at www.penndot.gov/winter. The site also has a complete winter guide with detailed information about winter services in each of PennDOT’s 11 engineering districts.

snowThe 40,000 miles for which PennDOT is responsible translates into 96,000 snow-lane miles — enough miles to circle the globe nearly four times. A snow-lane is calculated as the miles of road multiplied by the number of lanes, which means a one-mile section of four-lane roadway would equal four snow-lane miles.

The department maintains roughly the same number of miles maintained by the state in New York, New Jersey and all of the New England states combined.

 When winter weather hits, PennDOT’s primary focus is on interstates and expressways, and equipment may be redirected to those routes during significant winter events. The more traffic a roadway has, the more attention it will receive from plows, so motorists may find deeper accumulations on less-traveled routes and should adjust their driving for those conditions.

If motorists encounter snow or ice-covered roads, they should slow down, increase their following distance and avoid distractions. Last winter in Pennsylvania, preliminary data shows that there were 252 crashes resulting in 129 injuries on snowy, slushy or ice-covered roadways where aggressive-driving behaviors such as speeding or making careless lane changes were factors.

In addition to planning for traffic impacts, Richards noted that vehicle preparation is critical to safe winter travel. Tires should be checked often for the correct level of air pressure and adequate tire-tread depth to perform on ice and snow. A quick way to check tread depth is to insert a penny in the tread groove with Lincoln’s head upside down. If you can see the entire head, the tires are worn and traction will suffer. 

Once vehicles are travel-ready, drivers should be prepared for winter or vehicle emergencies especially if long-distance travel is planned. PennDOT urges motorists to carry an emergency kit, which should include items such as non-perishable food, water, first-aid supplies, warm clothes, a blanket, cell phone charger and a small snow shovel. 

In addition to viewing plow information, motorists can use www.511PA.com to check conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles, including color-coded winter conditions on 2,900 miles. 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information, and access to more than 850 traffic cameras.

Dunmoreans take winter hike in Moosic Mountain Preserve

Polar Vortex Hike pic 1

Shown during a winter hike by long-time friends at the start of polar vortex in the Moosic Mountain Preserve are, from left:  Jim McCormick, Chick Harle, Ed Coleman, Pat Cuff, Bill Ciccotti, and Brian McAndrew. In foreground is Jim McCormick’s dog Finnegan.

Polar Vortex Hike pic 2

Enjoying the strenuous winter hike were friends including, from left: Pat Cuff, Chick Harle, Jim McCormick, Bill Ciccotti, Ed Coleman, and Brian McAndrew.