MERCER, Pa. (WKBN) – In gearing up for winter, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is marking Winter Weather Awareness Week by promoting safe driving in snowy conditions.
Even though last winter was mild, there were still 224 accidents caused by winter weather. Those accidents caused 103 reported injuries.
PennDOT spokesman Jim Carroll said crews are ready for the snow.
“We started converting our fleet to winter operations October 1. We’ve had all our plows and spreaders ready, the fleets ready by November 1, so we’re ready to go,” he said.
In Mercer County alone, PennDOT has a $3.3 million budget in place for winter operations. This includes the 11,346 tons of salt on hand, and they can get up to 8,500 more tons, if needed.
If the money is not used by the end of winter, then the leftover funds will go to road construction and maintenance during the summer.
PennDOT officials recommend that drivers start preparing for the winter weather now. They recommend checking your tires, brakes, windshield wipers and antifreeze. Then, when the winter weather does comes, they say to slow down in icy or snowy conditions.
On top of safe driving, Carroll wants drivers to give PennDOT workers the time and space to do their job.
“It’s a difficult job, often visibility isn’t great,” he said. “We’re urging drivers to use plenty of space to allow our snow plow operations to work. You know, to perform their jobs effectively and safely. We ask to just give five car lengths distance to one of our plows.”
Mercer County has 35 individual plow routes, and the average distance of each route is 40 to 50 miles of road.
Each route takes an average of three hours to complete, so if snow falls at a rate of an inch per hour, by the time the snow plow comes by for a second pass, the snow will have risen by 3 inches. Carroll stressed that not only do drivers need to be cautious on the roads, but they need to be patient as well.
For more information on Winter Weather Awareness Week, visit www.weather.gov/ctp/WinterWeatherAwarenessWeek.