States Agencies Stressing Holiday Driving Safety

Winter weather this week across the Midwest and New England is causing agencies to remind motorists to drive carefully and safely, now and throughout the holiday season.

State agencies and safety organizations are stresses the importance of using safe driving practices during the holiday season. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), for example, offered tips to help drivers practice safe procedures around commercial motor vehicles to ensure safe and happy holiday travel season, saying on Dec. 15 that "Ohio's world-class transportation system will be heavily relied upon as travelers visit family and friends." Ohio ranks fifth in terms of the most highly traveled states in the country, according to the agency.

The tips are:

  • Stay visible. Just as cars have blind spots, motor carriers have blind spots too. If you cannot see the truck driver or their mirrors, chances are he or she cannot see you.
  • Pay attention. Remember to drive near motor carriers differently than you would other vehicles, as they do not have the same maneuverability as you. This is especially important when driving in winter conditions such as ice or snow.
  • Avoid aggressive driving. Avoid temptations of driving too fast for conditions, changing lanes improperly, or tailgating.
  • Stay alert when driving next to motor carriers. Even if you are driving cautiously, there is always one thing you have no ability to control — other drivers. Be aware of other drivers and always expect the unexpected.

PUCO and the Ohio State Highway Patrol regularly perform thorough inspections of commercial vehicles and professional drivers to ensure Ohio's highways remain safe for drivers.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) reminded drivers in the state that they should stay informed about snow, wind, and other conditions that could affect travel. "Stay informed and know what's coming by watching the latest road impact video. Remember ice and snow take it slow and know before you go," the agency advised, urging motorists to visit its 511 Road and Travel Information website for the latest information.

In Arizona, the Governor's Office of Highway Safety and various federal, state, and local officials kicked off this year's Holiday DUI Enforcement and Sober Designated Driver campaigns on Nov. 29 and Dec. 2. "This holiday season, law enforcement officers will be out in full force looking for drunk and impaired drivers," said Alberto Gutier, director of the office. "We want to remind people to enjoy the holiday season, but do so responsibly by 'Getting a Sober Designated Driver… Not a DUI!'"

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Dec. 14 urged residents to prepare for lake effect snow and snowstorms in western and northern parts of the state through early Dec. 17. He directed the Office of Emergency Management, State Police, the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, the Office of Fire Prevention and Control, the Department of Transportation, and the Thruway to enhance monitoring and prepare to deploy resources. "With frigid temperatures and significant snowfall on the way, I urge New Yorkers to take appropriate precautions now to stay safe," Cuomo said. "We are actively tracking these storms and will use every resource at our disposal to keep our roads clear and motorists out of harm's way. I strongly urge New Yorkers in these regions to drive responsibly and be prepared." His announcement said the forecasts called for 12-18 inches of some areas and freezing temperatures. Hazardous traveling conditions from snowfall in mountainous regions were expected to severely reduce visibility.

In Pennsylvania, Col. Tyree C. Blocker, the State Police Commissioner, reminded residents Dec. 14 to plan how to get home safely after holiday travel. He advised them to plan a safe ride after a night of holiday festivities, make their family's safety their top priority, and "keep in mind the men and women who work every day – sacrificing time with their own families – to keep the roads safe."

"According to PennDOT, more than 1,200 crashes statewide during the 2015 holiday season involved a driver impaired by drugs or alcohol, with 38 fatalities in those crashes," he wrote, asking motorists to download NHTSA's free SaferRide mobile app and then call a taxi or friend to pick them up rather than drive home impaired. He also urged motorists to wear seat belts and use appropriate child safety seats every time they drive; in Pennsylvania, children under the age of four must ride in an approved child safety seat.

"Unfortunately, traffic accidents will happen. When they do, we rely on several skilled and dedicated emergency responders – including police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, road crews, and tow truck drivers – to help those involved in the crash and keep traffic moving for other travelers," he wrote. "Pennsylvania's 'Steer Clear' law requires us to move over or slow down when we see emergency personnel on the side of the road. Please do your part to make sure these men and women are safe on the job and return home at the end of their shifts to enjoy the holidays with their families."

Minnesota's DOT also is warning that winter weather may may travel difficult through early Dec. 17. On Dec. 15, the agency said motorists should remember to check road conditions at www.511mn.org or call 511, be patient and remember snowplows are working to improve road conditions, stay back at least five car lengths behind the snowplow and far from the snow cloud, slow down to a safe speed for current conditions, drive with headlights on if it is snowing, regardless whether it is day or night, and do not use cruise control when roadways are wet or slippery.

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