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Caution counts in winter driving

When winter storms hit, maintenance crews from the Idaho Transportation Department rely on their fleet of snow removal equipment to clear the roadways.

Motorists are reminded to take extra caution when they encounter snow removal equipment; snowplow blades force snow up and off the road, potentially causing blizzard-like conditions and reduced visibility for drivers following too closely.

Caution when driving in winter conditions, and cooperation with highway workers clearing the roads, are key to snow removal safety. Drivers can follow these additional tips for safe winter driving:

  • Remain two car lengths behind snowplow trucks for every 10 mph you drive. Sand being spread by trucks can damage your vehicle.
  • Do not pass a snowplow unless it is absolutely necessary.
  • If you must pass, do so only when you can clearly see the road ahead. Do not pass on the side where the plow is spraying snow. If you do, the snow's force can knock your car out of control. Do not cut back immediately in front of a snowplow truck. The plow blades are often covered with snow and can be difficult to see.
  • Do not brake suddenly if you are traveling in front of a snowplow. The heavy vehicle cannot stop as quickly as your automobile.
  • Do not abandon your car unless it is absolutely necessary. If you must, leave it as far off the road as possible. Abandoned cars can interfere with the road clearing process and can be extremely hazardous to snow removal equipment and the operators if they are hidden or buried by snow.
  • Be aware of potential icy areas such as shady spots, bridges and overpasses. Since they are exposed on their undersides, bridges and overpasses are deprived of ground warmth and freeze more rapidly than the roadways leading to them.
  • Before you begin your trip, make sure your car's windows, mirrors and lights are clear of snow. Keep your windshield washers filled with a nonfreezing solution all winter.
  • Keep emergency supplies in the car: flashlight with extra batteries, first aid kit, pocket knife, blanket or sleeping bag, mittens, socks and a wool hat, small sack of sand or cat litter for generating traction under the wheels, small shovel, bottled water, booster cables, energy bars, brightly-colored scarf to attract attention in case of an emergency, waterproof matches or cigarette lighter, and map of the area where you plan to travel.
  • Before beginning a trip or long drive, know the current road conditions and weather forecast. For statewide highway information 24 hours a day, call the Idaho Road Report at 1-888-IDA-ROAD (432-7623) or for Treasure Valley residents, (208) 336-6600. Current conditions are also available on the Internet at