Thursday, January 7, 2016

Governor, PennDOT Urge Safe Driving Habits

As temperatures have dropped significantly during the first week of 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is highlighting winter safety laws, and urging drivers to prepare appropriately.

“It’s important to remind drivers about winter safety laws, such as clearing vehicles of ice and snow, but we also need to promote driver readiness,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said. “Drivers who may have been holding off due to relatively mild weather should be sure they and their vehicles
are prepared for the rest of the season.”

Richards urged drivers who haven’t already done so to get their vehicles serviced by a mechanic they trust. A properly trained mechanic can 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. Tires should be examined often for the correct level of air pressure and adequate tire-tread depth to perform on ice and snow.

Finally, in advance of winter travel, the traveling public should 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.

PennDOT also reminds motorists that their 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 is occurring, 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 rememberthat the main plow is wider than the truck.
  • Be 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.
PennDOT stresses these reminders as part of Winter Driving Awareness Week, January 10-16, which highlights the need for motorists to keep safety in mind throughout the winter season.

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 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information
and access to more than 770 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.

For more information on safe winter travel, an emergency kit checklist and information on PennDOT’s winter operations including a video released this winter, visit Additional winter driving and other highway safety information is available at