MESA, Arizona — Driving in the snow can be a real challenge, so the Arizona state highway department will be doing its best to keep the roads clear.
But drivers are going to have take some responsibility for their safety, too.
With all the heavy equipment on the roads, drivers should give plow operators the space they need to get the job done, an Arizona Department of Transportation spokesman said.
The agency has 200 snowplows across the state, along with 400 drivers who will likely be dealing with a powerhouse winter, courtesy of one of the strongest El Ninos ever recorded.
The last El Nino winter, 2009-10, was considered moderate but Flagstaff was cut off for days when heavy snowfall closed Interstates 17 and 40, and other high country roadways.
Plow operators have to multitask behind the wheel and the fewer distractions the better.
Stay off the plow’s tail and don’t pass it while they’re putting the blades to the pavement to clear ice and snow.
Plow operator Jerry Turner said, “(Drivers) follow too close, they try to pass … the plow is running 30-35 mph, shifting snow to that direction, and when the snow hits the side of the car, it becomes really hectic, really fast.”
Spokesman Doug Nintzel recommended drivers be ready to ride out lengthy delays and closures and to have emergency kit that costs less than $100 and fits in a small cooler.
“Make sure you have gloves, a hat, bottled water, snacks, flashlights with fresh and extra batteries. Have the phone fully charged,” he said.
It’s also a good idea to have a small foldup shovel and a couple of freezer bags filled with sand. Toss those bags under the tires for a bit of traction in case of a stuck vehicle.