“We really want to emphasize safety during the winter months, especially during and immediately after a snow event when our crews are out and about plowing area roads,” said Road Commission Communications Director Alex Doty.
The Road Commission advises drivers to never pass a snowplow on the right. With wing-plow technology common on new plow vehicles, blades can clear the shoulder and the lane of travel simultaneously. Also, plow drivers cannot see directly behind their trucks nor through snow clouds that can surround the vehicle on all sides.
“Driving directly next to a plow truck for any extended length of time poses a risk,” Doty said. “Our trucks can make sudden movements as they hit drifts or cut their way through snow, which could result in a collision with an adjacent vehicle traveling too close.”
Doty recommends allowing for extra time to reach destinations in the winter and avoid internal distractions like cellphones.
Parents should ensure children don’t stray too close to a roadway while waiting for a bus, and never allow them to build forts or tunnels in snow banks along the road. Kids should dress in bright colors while outside in the winter.
Shoveling your driveway properly can keep it clear after snowplows come through. Shovel a corner of the right of way free of snow in the area several feet before the driveway, in the direction of traffic. Mailboxes are best located on the side of the driveway farthest from oncoming traffic to prevent damage by snowplows.
The Road Commission suggests shaking your mailbox to find out if it is secure. A snowplow traveling at 35 mph can easily dislodge a wobbly mailbox, according to county officials, and it can be difficult to reinstall a post in the frozen ground.
The Ottawa County Road Commission typically responds to as many as 50 winter callouts during the season, using as much as 25,000 tons of salt and up to 18,000 tons of sand. The cost of this work can approach $3 million, depending on the severity of the season’s weather.
Road salt has also increased $26 a ton, compared to last season. The Road Commission will pay $62.84 per ton, for 22,500 tons of salt, for the current winter season. That results in a budget hike of about $500,000 to $600,000.
Road salt is most effective after snow accumulation and when the temperature is 20 degrees or more, allowing salt and snow to mix into a slush that crews can plow off the pavement.
The highest priorities for the Road Commission are state highways, followed by multi-lane primary roads, primary roads, local paved roads, subdivision streets, local gravel roads, and dead-end streets and cul-de-sacs. It can take up to 48 hours to work through the system after a significant snow event, Doty noted, and longer during multiple storms.