Safe winter driving means knowing conditions
Good winter drivers are prepared winter drivers. They have emergency kits in their cars, and they know to call (866) 511-WISC (9472) or check the WISDOT's website at www.511wi.gov for the latest driving conditions. If you travel to Minnesota, you may want to check the MNDOT website at http://hb.511mn.org/main.jsf or call (800) 542-0880 for the latest driving conditions.
The free telephone and web services provide information about driving conditions on Wisconsin's main highways. The reports are updated at least four times a day or more frequently if conditions warrant.
Good conditions in one part of the state do not mean smooth driving everywhere. Call the number or check the website. It only takes a few minutes and it can ease your journey to know what lies ahead. Remember, if you experience snow-covered roads, go slow.
Under the state's snowplowing guidelines, county highway crews work to achieve and maintain passable roadways during a storm, meaning that the roads are free of drifts, snow ridges, and as much ice and snowpack as is practical and can be traveled safely at reasonable speeds. A reasonable speed is one in which a vehicle can travel without losing traction.
During winter storms, motorists will have to reduce their speeds in order to maintain traction. After the storm, crews will work to clean up traveled lanes, bridge decks, slippery spots and intersections as they work toward achieving bare pavement. Bare pavement will not usually exist until weather conditions improve and may take several days to achieve.
The most important thing motorists can do is to slow down, drive for the conditions, and wear their safety belts.
Snowplows are common sights on roadways across the state as they work day and night to help people reach their destinations. The St. Croix County Highway Department reminds people to keep their distance around snowplows.
People often forget how to deal with snowplows, which are critical in clearing roadways quickly so that people can once again travel and reach their destinations.
Losing patience when sharing the road with a snowplow endangers more than just the motorist. Two of the snowplow operators' greatest fears are drivers who just can't wait to pass them and drivers who tailgate.
A snowplow kicks up a cloud of snow. It can also hit a ridge or drift of snow unexpectedly, causing a whiteout. If a driver tries to overtake and pass a snowplow in these conditions, everything can disappear in the cloud, including oncoming traffic or the brake lights on the snowplow itself. The cloud of snow may also hide the snowplow blade.
A typical plow route can be 30-50 lane-miles long, and in order to keep it open, a driver may have to plow it several times during a single snowstorm. Drivers should avoid passing snowplows until they are absolutely certain that it is safe. Passing can be very dangerous on a freeway, when one lane is plowed and one lane is snow packed. Drivers can lose control when the snow or slush suddenly grabs their tires.
Following the plow too closely isn't a good idea either, since the driver may have to stop or backup to clear a drift or open an intersection. It is difficult to see when you're close behind the plow, and you may be unable to stop in time when the plow stops or turns. State law requires motorists to stay back at least 200 feet.
Snowplow operators cannot stop to help motorists get vehicles out of the ditch or snow bank. Unless the situation is clearly an emergency, operators remain focused on clearing the roadways safely and efficiently.