Although Pennsylvania is heading for a January thaw, safe winter driving skills will be called on again soon, and as part of the state’s first Winter Driving Awareness Week, PennDOT is asking all drivers to be ready.
Winter Driving Awareness Week, Jan. 12-18, highlights the need for motorists to keep safety in mind throughout the winter season.
“During Winter Driving Awareness Week I’m asking all motorists to do their part to help increase safety for all drivers this winter season,” PennDOT Secretary Barry J. Schoch said. “Safety begins before drivers even leave home by ensuring that vehicles are properly equipped and mechanically ready to deal with winter driving challenges.”
"While we have this temporary respite from winter weather, motorists should have their vehicle serviced now by a mechanic they trust," Schoch added. "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."
Motorists should frequently check all fluid levels, lights and wiper blades. Tires should also be checked often for the correct level of air pressure and adequate tire-tread depth to perform on ice and snow.
Now is also a good time for motorists to prepare 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. Additionally, motorists should tailor their kits to any specific needs that they or their families have such as baby supplies, extra medication and pet supplies.
When winter weather does make a return appearance, 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.
- 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.
For more information on safe winter travel as well as PennDOT’s winter operations, visit www.dot.state.pa.us/winter.