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Drivers cautioned on wintry weather driving

1/3/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

A Summit County snowplow helps clear the road during a snowstorm Dec. 26 on Killian Road.
Photo: Lew Stamp
GREATER AKRON — When the first significant snowfall of the year hit the day after Christmas, it had been a long time coming.

Snowy conditions came later than usual this season, and last winter’s light snowfall meant drivers weren’t accustomed to the white stuff.

“Because of last year’s mild winter, many of Ohio’s motorists haven’t driven in significant ice and snow in about 20 months,” said Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Director Jerry Wray before the snow hit Akron.

Local safety officials said that first major Akron-area snowfall Dec. 26 caused some minor problems, but many could have been avoided with a little bit of patience and safe driving habits.

Norton Police Chief Thad Hete didn’t hesitate when asked what he thought drivers should do when the snow starts to fall.

“Slow down,” he said. “We’re asking people to slow down and be attentive. Even in these horrible driving conditions, we still see people on their cell phones and texting. More than anything, be attentive and drive for the conditions.”

Hete also said drivers should allow plenty of time to get to their destination and always be aware that bridges freeze over faster than roadways do.

“Even though the road may look dry, there’s a good chance it is not,” Hete said.

He added that drivers should also give plenty of room to plow operators, and it’s not a good idea to trail them.

“They have a very difficult job,” Hete said. “Be very, very careful if you have to pass them on the highway.”

ODOT’s Don’t Crowd the Plow campaign aims to educate drivers on safe driving when snowplow crews are working. As part of that, ODOT encourages drivers to give snowplows room to work. Because the plows are wide and can cross the centerline or shoulder, ODOT doesn’t recommend tailgating or trying to pass plows. If you must pass, take extreme caution and beware of the snow cloud that can be created by plows.

ODOT officials also remind drivers that plows travel below the speed limit, so exercise patience when on the roads in snow.

Lt. Doug Smith, of the Patrol Division of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, said officers responded to 48 incidences of vehicle crashes, cars in ditches or disabled vehicles in a seven-hour period during the Dec. 26 snowstorm.

“That’s a little higher than usual because it was the first major snow,” he said.

Smith added that in cases of severe winter weather, the office might announce that there are one of two levels of snow emergency classifications. One is that only those who feel it is necessary to drive should be out on the roads, and the other is that all roadways are closed to nonemergency personnel, and no one should be driving unless it is absolutely necessary to travel or a personal emergency exists.

Also, Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness (OCSWA) officials said Ohioans should know the different types of weather notifications used by the National Weather Service:

• Advisory: A less severe winter weather event that is imminent. Advisories highlight hazardous weather conditions that could lead to life-threatening situations if caution is not exercised and are usually issued six to 18 hours prior to the weather event.

• Watch: The potential exists for a significant or dangerous weather event. A watch is usually issued between 12 and 48 hours before a weather event.

• Warning: A significant or dangerous weather event that is imminent. Warnings are usually issued six to 18 hours prior to the weather event.

Those who must travel are urged to take a look at www.buckeyetraffic.org, an ODOT website that shows road conditions statewide.

For additional information, go to www.weathersafety.ohio.gov.

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