WYDOT: Winter driving tips; driving near snow plows requires care, patience

WYDOT urges drivers on Wyoming's winter highways and byways to be prepared. (Ernie Over photo)

WYDOT urges drivers on Wyoming’s winter highways and byways to be prepared. (Ernie Over photo)

(Riverton, Wyo.) – Are you prepared for winter driving?

Some of the basic ways to be prepared include installing winter windshield wiper blades, and checking your headlights and tire pressure.

When driving on ice, accelerate slowly — pretend that an egg is sitting under your gas pedal.

To stop on the ice, remove your foot slowly from the gas pedal. If your vehicle is equipped with ABS brakes, step on your brakes when slowing. The braking system will help you stop on icy roads.

Wyoming Department of Transportation maintenance professionals, who work on our roadways every day of the year, share the following winter driving tips:
• Make sure your vehicles are in top operating condition.
•  Bring along safety supplies and be prepared. Carry a sleeping bag, blankets, flashlights, non-perishable food, water, matches and fire starter, cell phone, a good shovel, flares, and even sand or cat litter for traction.
• Let someone know when you leave and when you’ll arrive at your destination.
• Keep your gas tank full of fuel.
• Drivers of some vehicles may want to carry tire chains.
• If you’re stranded during the winter on the open road, stay with your vehicle. Your vehicle is your protection against winter weather, and staying with it offers your best refuge and protection of surviving a blizzard. If running your vehicle’s engine while stranded, make sure exhaust pipe doesn’t become plugged with snow.
• And, know before you go. For Wyoming road conditions this winter, call 511, or log on to the Internet at www.wyoroad.info.

WYDOT employees are out on the highways every day and many nights attempting to provide a safe, high quality and efficient transportation system for the citizens of Wyoming.

WYDOT employees are on the roads when the conditions are the worst, and they’re out there between storms, too.

“We want you to drive safely to your destination,” said Cody Beers, WYDOT District 5 public relations specialist in Riverton.

There's lots of snow on Togwotee Pass. WYDOT provided this photo of a snowplow at work on U.S. Highways 26/287 on top of the pass. (WYDOT photo)

There’s lots of snow on Togwotee Pass. WYDOT provided this photo of a snowplow at work on U.S. Highways 26/287 on top of the pass. (WYDOT photo)

WYDOT has numerous bright yellow snow plows, and when working the roads, these plow trucks have amber, red and blue flashing lights mounted on top of the cab and on the back of the sanders.

Snow plows are huge machines, capable of moving tons of snow every minute. Operators of these snow plows are highly trained professionals.

These snow plow professionals need cooperation from drivers so they can do their jobs and keep the road safe for drivers. Give them room to operate.

“Stay well back from operating snow plows,” Beers said. “They are spreading sand, anti-icing and de-icing chemicals on the roadway. It’s always a good idea to stay back from snow plows while their operators are doing their jobs.”

With limited visibility, snow plow drivers can’t see vehicles behind them if the vehicles are too close to the plows.

“Remember, the safest driving surface is behind the plow. If you must pass, don’t pass on the right into the plume of snow being moved,” Beers said. “Be sure on two-lane highways that you have plenty of time to pass. Keep a close watch, these huge plows often stir up their own whiteout conditions while doing their work.”

WYDOT snow plows usually operate slower than other traffic. “Always remember our plows are helping to keep you safe,” Beers said. “We’re on your team. A few extra minutes of travel time following a plow are well worth it when compared to the problems associated with being involved in a crash.”

In the course of winter maintenance, WYDOT treats roads with liquid de-icers and anti-icers to keep ice bonding to our roadways, or to remove the ice if it has already formed.

While research verifies fewer accidents occur on treated highways, these de-icers and anti-icers can be sprayed up on vehicles from tires and wind. “It’s a good idea to wash off de-icing and anti-icing chemicals from your vehicle,” Beers said. “Don’t forget to keep your wiper reservoir full of washer fluid in case you experience splash-back.”

Beers said winter conditions sometimes dictate that roads are closed to travel. Reasons may include snow depth, limited visibility, high winds, and drifted snows. “We realize these closures may be frustrating if you’re traveling or late for an appointment, but the road has been closed for a reason. In winter, give yourself extra time to reach your destination without having to drive faster than the conditions allow,” Beers said. “Winter driving requires a light touch and a cautious approach.”

Beers said drivers should remember that it takes extra time to slow down or stop on slick roads. “Don’t use your cruise control, and drive at appropriate speeds. If you encounter poor visibility, slow down. Always slow down for safety. If you don’t have to go, don’t.”

“And, always, buckle up,” Beers said.