After a few good snowfalls in the upper elevations of Arizona, winter is truly here. The big snowfall on the last day of the year in 2018 caught many people off guard. People were slipping around on streets that very quickly became icy and getting stuck in the snow on the side roads all over central and northern Arizona. Record number of accidents were called in, and the next day was a recovery effort of many cars that were still stuck. There was even a video circulating online in the Prescott area of a snowplow sliding backwards, taking a few cars with it as it slipped downhill.
When conditions get like this, the best place to be is home, and once there, stay there!. You cannot expect for snowplows to be able to clear your street right away, and it might even take a couple of days depending on the amount of snow. Being prepared is the best course of action. If you live in higher elevations, expect big snowfalls and be prepared to stay home the handful of times each winter we are lucky enough to get snowfall.
If You Must Go Out in Inclement Weather:
- Vehicles: Inspect windshield wipers and replace them if necessary; turn on your headlights.
- Driving: Reduce speed and maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you; avoid sudden braking, which can cause you to slide on wet pavement.
- Flooding: Don’t risk crossing a flooded wash, even if it doesn’t look deep, and don’t drive around “Road Closed” signs. Even a few inches of running water poses a serious risk.
- Attention: Storm runoff can loosen boulders and rocks on slopes above highways, so stay alert in areas prone to falling rocks. Also, if traffic lights are out, treat an intersection like a four-way stop.
- Snow: Drive for conditions – slower speed, slower acceleration. Keep your gas tank at least three-quarters full. Stay at least four vehicle lengths behind and never pass a snowplow. Get more ADOT snow-safety tips at azdot.gov/KnowSnow.
Every winter, snowplows play an essential public safety role by clearing snow and ice on Arizona roadways. But when motorists fail to give plows enough room and aren’t careful when traveling near these oversized vehicles, it creates a hazard and makes it more difficult for operators to perform what’s already a challenging job.
Please make sure the children do not try to play around a snowplow doing it’s job. A recent snowplow operator reported almost burying kids in snow who were playing too close to the side of the road.
“Drivers should stay back at least 100 feet or more when following a snowplow and be aware the plow may need to come to a sudden stop,” ADOT Occupational Safety Manager Bob Stulz said. “The safest place is always well behind a snowplow, but if you must pass, do so cautiously when weather conditions warrant and avoid staying in the snowplow operator’s blind spot for too long.”
The department has 200 snowplow trucks in its fleet. While most are in places that see the most snow, snowplows are stationed in all of ADOT’s seven regions, including three operating out of the East Valley.
Highways that are typically easy to travel during the summer months can become icy or snow-covered during the winter, especially during major storms. In addition to being extra cautious on snowy and slippery roads, travelers should expect delays in wintry conditions and budget extra time. Motorists need to be aware that posted speed limits are for normal driving conditions. When roads become wet and slippery, slow down.
“With most slide-offs occurring due to drivers traveling too fast for the conditions, it’s essential that all motorists be prepared to slow down and maintain good visibility during heavy snowfall,” Stulz added.
Snowplow operators urge drivers to follow these precautions:
- First and foremost, never assume that a plow driver knows you are nearby. If you can’t see the plow driver, there is a good chance the driver can’t see you.
- Always keep a safe distance behind a snowplow ‒ the rule of thumb is four car lengths. Plowed snow can create a cloud that reduces visibility, and spreaders on trucks throw de-icing agents or sand that can damage vehicles.
- Never stop too close behind a plow truck. You never know if the driver might need to back up.
- Never pass a plow truck, especially if it is pushing snow or clearing ice. Some trucks are equipped with a second side plow blade that can be hit by a passing vehicle.
- Watch for snowplows operating in multiple travel lanes or in tandem.
- If approaching an oncoming snowplow, slow down and give the plow extra room.
- It’s important for both large and small vehicles to share the road with snowplows. In addition to driving, plow operators are also focused on what’s going on inside the cab and with situations on the roadway. Snowplows need extra room to turn, so avoid getting into their blind spots.
- Just because a plow truck has been through the area, drivers shouldn’t assume the roadway is completely clear of snow and ice. Don’t speed, and always use caution in winter driving conditions.
- Nighttime plowing is far more difficult than daytime plowing, so use extra caution around snowplows after dark.