Answers to frequently asked questions about safe driving
Q: “Well, it appears that snow season is here to stay. Any tips for navigating around snowplows”?
A: With the onset of winter, it’s important to know how to safely share the road with snowplows.
Sharing the road with snowplows is similar to sharing the road with other large vehicles:
• They appear to be moving more slowly.
• The have larger blind spots.
• They take longer to stop.
Considering the weather conditions in which snowplows are used, such as fog, ice and snow, visibility can be greatly reduced and stopping distances increased.
Overconfidence in driving skills or in a vehicle’s safety features is a factor in many weather-related crashes. Don’t assume that having four-wheel drive, snow tires and anti-lock brakes eliminate the danger of losing control. Neither does being the world’s greatest driver.
When sharing the road with snowplows, consider these tips:
• Stay at least five car lengths behind the plow, far from the snow fog; snowplow operators will pull over when it is safe to do so to allow traffic build-up to pass.
• Slow down and drive according to the conditions. Most winter crashes are caused by driving too fast for conditions. Snowplows typically move at slower speeds. On snow or icy roads, stopping distances can be more than 10 times that of normal dry conditions.
• Stay alert, as snowplows turn or exit frequently and often without warning. They also may travel over centerlines or partially into traffic to further improve road conditions.
• Be careful when passing a snowplow. They can be moved sideways by snow drifts and hard snow pack.
• Do not drive through “white-outs” or “snow fog” caused by cross winds or plowing snow. Wait until you can see.
• Use headlights to increase daytime visibility, and remove all snow and ice from vehicles — this includes windows, mirrors, head lights and tail lights.
• Stay out of the snowplow’s “no zone” — the huge blind spots where your car can disappear from the view of the snowplow driver. The no zones are at the rear, front and both sides of the snowplow.
If sharing the road with snowplows and winter weather makes you uncomfortable — don’t drive. However, if you must go out, be prepared, be safe and be cautious.
• Carry a winter emergency travel kit and cellphone and charger.
• Keep your gas tank at least half full.
• Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to arrive.
• Do not use cruise control on wet, icy or snow-covered roads.
• Use your headlights when you use your wipers (PA Law).
• Remove ice and snow from your vehicle, roof and hood. If injury or death occurs by ice or snow flying from your vehicle, you can be ticketed.
• Allow extra space around snowplows to accommodate blind spots, visibility and reaction time.
• Do not pass or get between trucks plowing in a “plow line” (several trucks plowing side-by-side).
• Do not park or abandon your vehicle on snow emergency routes.
And always Buckle Up. Every one. Every trip. Every time.
“Sadie Says …” is brought to you by the Lycoming County Health Improvement Coalition (LCHIC) Safe Communities Task Force, whose members include AAA North Penn, AARP, area agencies on aging and regional transportation and highway safety advocates.