As the winter season is upon us, Washburn County officials want to remind the traveling public of the dangers of winter driving conditions. While the Washburn County Highway Department and Sheriff’s Office will be out in full force this winter season working to keep our roads safe, there are a number of reminders for the traveling public that is crucial to their safety as well as other drivers and public safety workers.
1. Plan ahead and give yourself extra time when traveling in adverse weather conditions. Wisconsin weather can be unpredictable, and you will never know when you will encounter winter weather conditions and treacherous roads. Always wear your seatbelt.
2. Ice and Snow, Take it Slow. Remember the posted speed limits are for dry pavement. Do not get overconfident in your 4x4 vehicle.
3. Slow down or move over. Wisconsin law requires you to slow down or move over when approaching emergency or maintenance vehicles. This includes law enforcement, tow trucks, and snow plows stopped on the side of the road with their flashing lights on.
If you approach a stopped emergency or maintenance vehicle during a winter storm and decide to change lanes, be extra careful. The passing lane may be in worse shape than the driving lane. There may also be a snow ridge between the two lanes. Avoid making an abrupt lane change.
4. Keep safe distance. During plowing operations, visibility can be reduced by blowing snow. State law requires a minimum of 200 feet behind a snow plow engaged in slow or ice removal on highways posted with a speed limit of 35 mph or greater. On highways having a posted speed limit of 35 mph or less, state law requires a minimum of 75 feet behind a snow plow.
5. Don’t stop too close behind a stopped snowplow. The driver could be preparing to back up and may not see you if you are stopped too close in their blind spot.
6. Move away from the centerline. When you see an approaching snowplow on an undivided highway, move as far away from the centerline as you safely can. Use caution as blowing snow may obscure the actual width of the snowplow’s blade. Slow down and be sure to provide enough room.
7. Pay attention and stay sober. Avoid distractions and put down your cell phone. Conditions can change quickly and all attention needs to be given to your driving and those around you.
8. Don't use your cruise control. Even roads that appear clear can have sudden slippery spots, and the short touch of your brakes to deactivate the cruise control feature can cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
9. Call 511 or visit 511wi.gov for real-time traveler information, including winter road conditions. If your trip can wait until the storm is over, stay at home until conditions improve.
10. Pack a winter emergency kit. Winter emergency kits should include items such as food, water, a flashlight and batteries, and blankets. In your vehicle, include a snow shovel, extra gloves and hats, and kitty litter or sand to help give your wheels traction on icy roads in case you get stuck.
“Our goal is to make the state and county roadway system as safe as possible during these winter events, but every storm brings different resource and environmental challenges,” said Washburn County Highway Commissioner Brian Danielsen. “The traveling public must modify their driving practices to adapt to the winter road conditions in order to keep themselves and everyone around them safe. Please reduce your speeds and give our workers the room that they need to provide safe winter driving conditions.”
The Washburn County Highway Department performs all of the winter maintenance on 200 miles of state roads and 200 miles of county roads throughout the county.
Any questions regarding Washburn County’s winter maintenance program can be directed to the Highway Department, 715.635.4480.
"The Highway Department thanks you in advance for driving aware and reducing your speed in order to make our roadways safer," the department said.
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