WHY THIS IS A MUST-READ
Be more aware of how to handle winter driving. Learn state does to help keep roads safe and passable.
MILFORD - There was a time only a few generations back, when no one plowed the roads. Wagon owners would just remove the wheels and install sleigh runners, or just switch to a horse-drawn sleigh. There was no such animal as “snow days” either; kids would still have to go to school. Like the birds and the furry critters, folks seemed to be more aware back then, to stock up for what was likely to be a long, hard winter.
Of course we’re far beyond that, or so it seems.
Today, PennDOT as well as township and borough crews, work around the clock when a storm hits, to plow the roads, and treat them ahead of time as well as after. Law enforcement, which also must deal with the same road conditions, have to deal with an increase in “fender benders” and cars off the road, because of excess speed or lack of winter preparedness and caution.
It’s part of life at any PennDOT county office; Pike County is no exception.
As part of “Winter Driver Awareness Week,” PennDOT held a press conference in Milford, January 10, to alert the public to winter driving tips as well as what is done to take care of the roads in Pike County.
Michael Taluto, PennDOT spokesman for District #4, reminded that people need to be prepared before they get behind the steering wheel. Do they have proper tires with good tire pressure? Is the battery charged? Do they have enough windshield wiper fluid, as well as good working blades? Has snow and ice completely been removed from the vehicle windows?
Do they have an emergency kit in the vehicle, in case they get stranded?
“People need to remember we have four seasons,” Kenneth Thielle, manager of the Pike County PennDOT office, added. Although they may have four-season tires, he said it is worth the cost to exchange them for snow tires.
Taluto added, not to drive if you don’t need to in a winter storm.
Christina Sullivan, who runs the Highway Safety Program in Pike and Lackawanna counties, suggested that the public visit online at 511PA.com to find out current road conditions on state roads across the state. You can even see, during a storm event, where PennDOT snow plow trucks are and where they have been.
There are several cameras that provide live views of Interstate 84 on 511PA.com.
The same site can also show where there is a crash.
Behaviors to check and be sure they are not include texting while driving. Aggressive driving is also a serious problem.
Chief Chad Stewart, Eastern Pike Regional Police Department, said that a lot of people don’t completely clear off their windows, which can lead to accidents. Taluto added that the motorist can be liable if snow or ice falls from the vehicle and causes someone else to crash.
Speed beyond what conditions allow also cause a lot of crashes in winter.
When seeing a snow plow truck, motorists are not to try to pass them, and they must keep a vehicle length behind them, stated Thielle.
He advised the public to avoid tailgating and to give yourself adequate time to get to your destination. “Use common sense,” he stated; if the walkway is slippery to get to the car, you know you need to be cautious on the road.
Chief Stewart affirmed that some drivers can get over-confident just because they have a large vehicle, or have four-wheel drive.
Black ice is also a problem. The road may look safe, but the melted areas may refreeze at night. “If you see a dark road in winter, slow down,” said Theille.
What they do
Theille said that PennDOT monitors weather bulletins from Accuweather specific for their department. In advance of a storm, county crews go on a schedule of shifts to provide around-the-clock coverage.
If there is under 2 inches of snow on the road, PennDOT will spread materials to keep it melted down. When the depth exceeds 2 inches, they use the plow.
In Pike County, they have a fleet of 21 plow trucks, 23 anti-icing trucks, five loaders and one grader. They have 30 truck operators; 19 temporary operators and three mechanics. There are 678 snow lane miles in their responsibility. There are three material stockpiles, strategically placed around Pike County.
He said that PennDOT works closely with state and local police to respond where there was an accident.
During a storm event, their drivers will check in on the radio every two hours or every hour, depending on the storm’s severity. Each truck sends out its own signal which tells PennDOT’s county office its location (plotted on 5111PA.com) as well as other data including air and road temperatures.
If necessary, PennDOT will contact the PA State Police at Harrisburg, to lower the speed limit on the interstate. The media is alerted, and electronic message boards are activated to alert drivers. The message is also posted at 511PA.com. Warnings of drifting conditions are also posted.
Ahead of the storm, anti-skid is placed on the road surfaces. This is crushed stone chips, with eight sides which allows the chips to grip and give traction, rather than roll.
Rock salt is used until the temperature drops to the point (below +20 degrees F.) where brine is needed. If it gets to -10 degrees F., calcium chloride is added to lower the freezing point.
PA vs. NY & NJ
Bordering New York State and New Jersey, Theille said that they often get compared to how well the roads are treated and plowed in those states. He pointed out that the difference is in the way the Department of Transportation is funded. In Pennsylvania, there is a Liquid Fuels tax, raised from sales of gasoline. New York and New Jersey departments of transportation are better funded, with their money coming from their respective states’ general fund, he said.
As a result, PennDOT (state-wide) does not have a “bare road policy.”
WINTER: WHAT TO KNOW
• Drive slow; give enough time
• Don’t text & drive
• Avoid passing, tailgating plow trucks
• Check aggressive driving
• Clear off windows completely
• Have an emergency kit
• Check windshield wipers, fluid
• Have battery charged
• Monitor 511PA.com
• DON’T DRIVE IF YOU DON”T NEED TO
BY THE NUMBERS
Pike County - PennDOT
Winter of 2016-2017
678 snow lane miles
38 inches of snow on average
38 municipal agreement miles
11,394 tons salt used
65,147 gallons brine used
21 snow plow trucks
23 anti-icing trucks
19 temporary operators
$2.2 million budget
$2.9 million spent
BY THE NUMBERS
Wayne County - PennDOT
Winter of 2016-2017
1,478 snow lane miles
43 inches of snow on average
29 municipal agreement miles
13,664 tons salt used
31,175 gallons brine used
30 snow plow trucks
2 anti-icing trucks
4 temporary operators
$2.9 million budget
$4.6 million spent