PennDOT issues travel restrictions

Times Observer file photo

A mixed bag of precipitation in the weather forecast this week has PennDOT taking precautions and advising motorists to do the same.

With a period of snow, sleet and freezing rain expected across the state through Thursday, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is imposing restrictions on certain trucks and other vehicles, limiting speed limits and urging motorists to prepare their vehicles for colder temperatures, potential black ice and inclement weather.

The National Weather Service predicts parts of the commonwealth could see an icy mix of rain and sleet dependent on local conditions, especially north of Interstate 80. While significant accumulations are not anticipated, even light amounts of snow and ice can create hazardous road conditions.

The restrictions will be in place from 11 p.m. Monday to 6 a.m. Tuesday and will ban double trailers, empty trailers, non-commercial vehicles pulling trailers, recreational vehicles and motorcycles on the following interstates:

¯Interstate 80 east of the junction with Interstate 79 to the New Jersey border.

¯Interstate 81 north of the junction with Interstate 78 to the New York border.

¯Interstates 84, 180 and 380 in northeast and north-central Pennsylvania.

¯Interstate 476, the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike north of the Lehigh Valley exit.

Speed limits will be restricted to 45 mph on these interstates while the vehicle restrictions are in place. Additional speed restrictions on other interstates could be added depending on changing conditions.

In response to the anticipated storm, PennDOT has applied anti-icing materials to many roads across the state and is activating its statewide command center and regional command centers in areas most affected by the storm.

Motorists are encouraged to check conditions by visiting 511PA.com, which provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 860 traffic cameras. Users can also see plow truck statuses and travel alerts along a specific route using the “Check My Route” tool.

511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional Twitter alerts accessible on the 511PA website.

PennDOT recommends motorists have a mechanic ensure their vehicle is prepared for winter weather and carry a vehicle emergency kit.

Motorists should be aware that all vehicles should be fully clear of ice and snow before winter travel. If snow or ice is dislodged or falls from a moving vehicle and strikes another vehicle or pedestrian causing death or serious bodily injury, the operator of that vehicle could receive a $200 to $1,000 fine.

PennDOT also advises drivers to use extra caution as they encounter operating snow-removal equipment. When encountering a plow truck, drivers should:

¯Stay at least six car lengths behind an operating plow truck and remember that the main plow is wider than the truck.

¯Be alert since plow trucks generally travel much more slowly than other traffic.

¯When a plow truck is traveling toward you, move as far away from the center of the road as is safely possible, and remember that snow can obscure the actual snow plow width.

¯Never try to pass or get between several trucks plowing side by side in a “plow train.” The weight of the snow thrown from the plow can quickly cause smaller vehicles to lose control, creating a hazard for nearby vehicles.

¯Never travel next to a plow truck since there are blind spots where the operator can’t see, and they can occasionally be moved sideways when hitting drifts or heavy snowpack.

¯Keep your lights on to help the operator better see your vehicle. Also remember that under Pennsylvania state law, vehicle lights must be on every time a vehicle’s wipers are on due to inclement weather.

PennDOT has created a Winter Safety media center, including social-media-sized graphics highlighting winter driving preparations and operations at www.penndot.gov in the “Media Center” under the “About Us” footer.

For more information on safe winter travel, an emergency kit checklist and information on PennDOT’s winter operations including a video, visit PennDOT.gov/winter. Additional winter driving and other highway safety information is available at PennDOT.gov/safety.

Follow the conversation by using #PAWinter on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PennDOTNews and visit the department on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PennsylvaniaDepartmentofTransportation to view a January 3 winter emergency kit video.

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