2010-12-30 / Business

NYSDOT offers safe driving tips

As heavy snowfalls have hit from Buffalo to Long Island, the state Department of Transportation is urging travelers to use caution near snowplows.

“Every year, motorists and pedestrians take chances by passing, driving too closely behind or walking near snowplows engaged in clearing snow and ice on roadways, and every year there are needless accidents and injuries as a result of these careless actions,” said Stanley Gee, DOT acting commissioner. “During winter storm events, drivers should exercise caution, obey the rules of the road, drive slowly and yield to snowplows so that everyone can return home safely at the end of the day.”

According to Gee, snowplow operators have difficulty seeing motorists and pedestrians that are too close to the plows because their field of vision is limited due to blind spots. In addition, the wing blades of these vehicles obscure side views. The size and weight of snowplows make them difficult to maneuver or stop quickly, especially since the highway ahead of a plow often is slippery or snow-covered.

New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law requires that “hazard vehicles,” which include vehicles engaged in ice and snow removal, have amber lights. The amber light is a warning to motorists and pedestrians to expect the unexpected and to stay clear of the oncoming plow.

Approximately 3,650 state DOT snowplow operators and supervisors are responsible for maintaining nearly the 38,635 lane miles of state highway in New York through a fleet of more than 1,400 snowplows and 50 truck-mounted snow blowers for routine winter operations.

Snowplows are supposed to travel at about 35 miles per hour — often lower than the posted speed limit — to maximize clearing the snow and minimize salt scattering off pavements. On interstate highways, snowplows frequently travel side by side in order to clear several lanes at once.

For safety reasons, motorists and pedestrians should adhere to the following guidelines:

• Stay a safe distance away from snowplows. The safest place for motorists is well behind the snowplows where the road is clear and salted. The safest place for pedestrians is on the sidewalk and in clear vision of the snowplow driver.

• Never assume that a plow driver can see you.

• Yield to a snowplow, giving the plow a wide berth with room to maneuver.

• Beware of deicing materials that may be released from the plow and keep your distance from them.

• Make sure to have clear vision ahead and that passing is permitted before attempting to pass snowplow.

• On two-lane roads where passing is not permitted, be patient, and wait until the plow pulls over to the side of the road before passing.

• Be mindful of where snowplows are on multi-lane highways. Watch for plows in travel lanes, on a shoulder or entering

the road from a ramp or median or median turnaround. They also may need to back up, which may impede routine traffic flow.

• After passing a snowplow, use caution when returning to the driving lane ahead of the plow. The plow blade extends several feet ahead of the truck.

• Move as far away from the center line as safely possible

as safely possible when meeting a snowplow on a two-lane road coming from the opposite direction.

• Watch for “whiteouts” created by blowing snow coming off the snowplow blade.

• Don’t travel beside a plow for sustained periods, especially when the plow is cutting through deep snow. Plows can be pushed sideways after hitting drifts or snowbanks.

In general, travelers should follow these winter road safety tips:

• Adjust speed for road conditions, and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles. Increase your following distance when roads are slippery or visibility is poor. Schedule extra time for winter travel, and be patient during ice and snow removal operations.

• Stay alert. Whether driving or walking, stay focused on what you are doing. Many accidents are caused by distracted driving and walking.

• Use caution on bridges, since the surfaces are slippery, as they freeze more quickly than road surfaces.

• Equip your car with emergency supplies including sand, shovel, flares, booster cables, rope, ice scraper, portable radio, flashlight, extra warm clothes and a cell phone.

• Inform a responsible person of your destination, intended route and estimated time of arrival.

• Stay calm, and do not panic in case of a vehicle breakdown, accident, or if you become snowbound. Never venture from your vehicle if snowbound.

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