Have you ever rushed past a snow plow or followed one too closely on a wintry night?
Those are a couple of the pet peeves cited by Ohio Department of Transportation employees Dec. 29 as they prepared for their shifts and a weekend of hazardous weather.
Will Contreras, a driver with ODOT for five years, said he’s seen frequent and unnecessary close calls on the roads. Many are linked to texting and driving, or to motorists simply being in too much of a rush.
“People will hurry somewhere and spin out instead of just leaving earlier,” he said. “I’ve seen all roads covered with no lane lines and people will still speed by. I think newscasters and others need to keep getting the message out telling drivers to be safer.”
ODOT spokeswoman Crystal Neelon worked as a plow driver for six years before moving into her current position in 2015.
“I’m amazed how much people try to pass us on a terrible weather night when the road is in even worse shape out in front of the truck,” she said. “You see a lot of drivers try to pass only to spin out or go in a ditch in front of us.”
“We’ve really been trying to push our safety campaigns on social media,” she said. “Our message board is up now letting you know the number of crashes and fatal crashes we’ve had. We’re tying to get numbers put up too when it comes to distracted driving.”
Last winter, ODOT’s 18 Lorain County trucks logged 129,181 miles while using 10,215 tons of salt and 128,321 gallons of liquid deicers.
Across Ohio, there were 35 instances of plow trucks being struck by other vehicles.
Neelon said automated plow trucks are being tested on small portions of I-90 and U.S. Route 30.
“It’s all still in early phases,” she said. “It’s not something we’re working on a whole lot just yet but it’s coming on more and more. As technology moves along it will become more and more of a factor in the future.”
Another tech advance puts sensors on trucks that gauge the temperature of road surfaces, providing earlier warning for drivers of icy patches that can be hard to spot at nighttime.
“A driver might think it’s one temperature but it’s really not,” Neelon said. “It can also give them a better idea of what ice treatment they should use.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.