With periods of heavy snow and possible squalls in the forecast for northwest Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is reminding drivers to be alert for changing roadway conditions.
PennDOT urges drivers to avoid travel during serve winter weather conditions, but if they must travel to be prepared and use caution while driving.
Crews in Crawford, Erie, Forest, Mercer, Venango, and Warren counties will work around the clock, as needed, to respond to winter weather as it occurs. Salt, anti-skid and other materials are in good supply. Plow trucks and other equipment are ready.
Motorists are reminded that roadways will not be free of snow while precipitation is falling. With freezing temperatures, roads that look wet may actually be icy, and extra caution is needed when approaching bridges and highway ramps where ice can form without warning.
The Department also asks motorists to allow plenty of space – six car lengths – when following a truck that is plowing or spreading winter materials. Also, for their own safety and the safety of plow operators, motorists should never attempt to pass a truck while it is plowing or spreading winter materials.
Drivers always should be alert for sudden squalls which can strike with little or no warning and quickly cause roads to become snow covered. Heavy squalls also can cause whiteout conditions, virtually eliminating a driver’s visibility. During squalls or whiteout conditions, do not stop on the roadway as this could cause a chain-reaction collision. Come to a complete stop only when you can safely get as far off the road as possible or when there is a safe area to do so.
Additionally, motorists who are traveling during times of snow or sleet should remember the following safety advice:
- Leave early to ensure you have extra time to make the trip.
- Slow down gradually and drive at a speed that suits the conditions.
- Turn on your headlights.
- Stay in your lane.
- Increase your following distance.
- Stay alert, keep looking as far ahead as possible and be patient.
- Reduce in-car distractions since your full attention is required.
- Use defroster and wipers.
- Keep windows and mirrors free of snow and ice.
- Do not pass a vehicle moving slowly or speed up to get away from a vehicle that is following too closely.
- Give ample room for plow truck drivers to treat the roadways and never pass between two trucks operating in a plow line.
- Always buckle up and never drink and drive.
While PennDOT recommends not traveling during winter storms, motorists can check 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 1,000 traffic cameras.
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.
PennDOT reminds motorists to pack an emergency kit for their vehicles. A basic kit should include non-perishable food, water, blanket, small shovel and warm clothes. When preparing an emergency kit, motorists should take into account special needs of passengers such as baby food, pet supplies or medications and pack accordingly.
PennDOT also reminds citizens that downloadable materials, including home and car emergency kit checklists and emergency plan templates, are available at www.Ready.PA.gov or by downloading the free ReadyPA app for Apple or Android devices. Citizens can also find information about getting involved in local emergency response efforts and other volunteer opportunities through the ReadyPA website.
For more winter driving tips and information on how PennDOT treats winter storms, visit www.PennDOT.gov/winter.