News Release - November 23, 2010
STAY BACK AND STAY SAFE THIS WINTER
When winter hits, Saskatchewan's snow plow operators hit the highways to remove snow and treat ice on the province's 26,000 km network. Motorists are reminded to stay back and stay safe, giving the snow plow room to work as highways are cleared using the most effective methods for varying weather conditions.
"Clearing snow and ice in a windy province like Saskatchewan is a challenge, but our staff know what to do to make conditions better, and how avoid to making conditions worse," Highways and Infrastructure Minister Jim Reiter said.
Applying salt or de-icing chemical when there is strong ground drift or heavy snow fall will cause snow to stick and become twice or three times thicker than the condition that already exists, forming ice and heavy ruts. In addition, if the temperature of the road surface is colder than -6 C, then salt takes a long time to melt ice. In these cases snow is bladed off the road using several passes, and a sand mix is applied when conditions permit to help motorists avoid skidding.
There are 300 plow trucks working in 85 maintenance sections throughout the province, on the road before, during and after storms. Highways are inspected frequently to determine if snow plowing or salt/sand application is needed, and to report up-to-date highway conditions to the Highway Hotline. "Night Riders" travel routes up to 500 km long throughout the night to report and treat conditions on the most heavily travelled highways.
Highways are prioritized based on classification and traffic volumes:
Level 1 - Snow/ice removal occurs within six hours of the end of the storm on highways that serve as commuter routes, major inter-provincial and international travel routes, connect communities with a population of 3,000 or more and have an average annual daily traffic (AADT) count of 1,500 or more vehicles.
Level 2 - Snow/ice removal occurs within 12 hours on highways with an AADT between 300 and 1,500. Additional time may be required in extreme circumstances.
Level 3 - Snow/ice removal occurs on all other highways with an AADT less than 300 as soon as possible or within 24 hours, without jeopardizing service to Level 1 or 2 highways.
"I'd like to ask motorists to remember that snow plows can create a mini blizzard in their wake, sometimes obscuring the plow from sight, despite the checkerboard truck boxes and flashing lights," Reiter said. "If you come upon a sudden whiteout, it's probably a plow working up ahead, so slow down, stay back and stay safe. The plows pull over every 10 kilometres or so to allow vehicles to pass."
Three collisions with snow plow trucks were recorded last winter, bringing the total to 53 collisions since ministry officials began closely tracking them in 1998.
Legislation passed in the spring of 2009 also requires drivers to slow to 60 km when passing a snow plow either stopped on the side of the road or in operation with warning lights flashing.
For more information on winter maintenance activities and snow plow safety please see the accompanying fact sheets or go to www.highways.gov.sk.ca.
For more information, contact: