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Don’t crowd the snow plow

November 30, 2012
The Daily News

We've already gotten some snow this winter, and you can bet we'll get plenty more.

To help us prepare drivers for the season, the Michigan Department of Transportation and the County Road Association of Michigan have announced the start of their annual education campaign urging motorists to remember good driving habits in winter weather conditions: "Snowplows Need Room to Groom!"

"Road crews put their lives on the line every day to keep Michigan roads safe for everyone," said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle.

"Motorists must remember to drive with caution no matter how much salt we use or how often the roads are plowed," Steudle said in a statement.

A steady decrease in road funding and an increase in costs have forced state and local agencies to alter their winter maintenance plans and change plowing priorities.

However, one important fact has not changed: road crews must have ample room in order to safely clear the many miles of roadway of snow and ice.

"Motorists must do their best to minimize distractions and focus on driving and changes in road conditions," said John Niemela, County Road Association of Michigan director.

"Every year, despite the flashing lights on snowplow trucks, poor driver behavior near snowplows leads to collisions that can be deadly," Niemela said in a statement.

Wisconsin officials also warn motorists to exercise caution when snowplows are on the roadways.

"Removing snow and ice from more than 100,000 miles of roads and streets in Wisconsin is a tremendous challenge performed primarily by county and municipal highway departments," said Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb.

"Snowplow drivers frequently work extremely long hours during the worst imaginable weather conditions to make roadways safer and keep traffic flowing as efficiently as possible," Gottlieb said.

"Their knowledge, experience and dedication help all of us travel to our jobs, farms, schools, retail stores, medical services and recreational destinations while also maintaining the delivery of goods and services to support our state's businesses and industries," he said. "They do their jobs, so we should do our part."

To help motorists, Wisconsin and Michigan traffic safety experts offer the following safety tips:

- If there's ice and snow, take it slow. The posted speed limits are based on dry pavement. Those speed limits may be hazardous when roads are slick or visibility is poor. Most traffic crashes in winter are caused by driving too fast for conditions.

- Wisconsin state law requires that you stay at least 200 feet behind a working snowplow. When you're following a snowplow, make sure that you can see the driver's mirrors to ensure the driver is able to see you. You never know when a snowplow driver may have to back up.

- If you have to pass a working snowplow, be careful. The snowplow can create a cloud of snow that could obscure your vision. Also, remember that the roadway behind the snowplow is in better condition than the roadway in front of it.

- And always buckle up, pay attention to traffic and road conditions, slowdown and drive sober to help reduce the number of preventable traffic deaths.

- Distracted driving is dangerous driving. Motorists should not text or talk on cell phones while they are behind the wheel. In fact, texting while driving is illegal in Michigan and Wisconsin.

- Motorists should never attempt to pass a moving snowplow on the right. With new wing-plow technology, the blade can clear the shoulder and the lane of travel simultaneously. Motorists attempting an illegal pass through a snow cloud on the right and/or shoulder of the road most likely won't see the plow blade and run the risk of a serious crash.



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