We have had our share of winter weather advisories and winter weather statements this year, and it isn't even winter yet.
As we indicated in today's front page weather story, the snowy, slushy weather has had an impact on area drivers.
Quite a few of them have had the unpleasant experience of sliding off the roadway or into the ditch. Fortunately, no serious injuries were reported from these incidents.
For the most part, area road crews did a admirable job of keeping area roads passable for local motorists.
Area drivers also need to know that they can help the local road crews.
To help ensure everyone gets where they're going safely, the Michigan Department of Transportation and the County Road Association of Michigan again remind motorists that "Snowplows Need Room to Groom."
"Tackling Michigan snow and ice is a daunting job for MDOT, county and municipal winter maintenance workers," said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. "By giving them room to do their job and driving appropriately for conditions, motorists help make our roads safer for everyone."
Decreases in funding and increasing costs have forced changes in winter maintenance practices, but plows always need plenty of room to perform their job properly.
"Your county road agency maintains some state trunklines and most of the local roads that take us home, to work and school, and in Michigan winter that means snowplows, graders and salt trucks," said Denise Donohue, director of the County Road Association.
"Taking extra care when driving near snowplows, minimizing distractions and focusing on driving will help you reach your destination safely, protecting your family and ours," Donohue said in a statement.
The Michigan Department of Transportation and the County Road Association offer the following reminders for motorists:
- Snowplows have limited visibility and drivers cannot see directly behind their trucks.
- Snowplows often throw up clouds of snow behind them, reducing visibility on all sides of the truck.
- Motorists should never attempt to pass a moving snowplow on the right. With new wing plow and tow 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.
- Distracted driving is dangerous driving. Motorists should not text or talk on cell phones while they are behind the wheel, especially in winter conditions. In fact, texting while driving is illegal in Michigan.
- Always wear your safety belt and allow extra time to reach your destinations this winter.
- More road salt is not always the cure for slippery roads. When temperatures fall below 20 degrees, the action of the salt takes longer to work. Continuing to apply salt at these very low temperatures will actually cause more problems than it solves.
"As motorists, we all share responsibility for the safety of our roads in Michigan with our dedicated maintenance workers," Steudle added. "Please drive like you want to make it home tonight, and give snowplows room to groom."