BLOG: If You Must Drive in Winter Weather, Follow These Tips

By: Leslie S. Richards, Secretary of Transportation

January 22, 2016

As we prepare for the first significant snowfall of 2016, it’s an important time to remind motorists about safe winter driving practices. First and foremost, if you don’t need to be out, we urge you to stay home in order to clear the roadways for first responders and plow trucks.

If circumstances like your job or a medical appointment prevent you from staying in during the inclement weather, please remember that 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, the operator of that vehicle could receive a significant fine.


When winter weather is occurring, PennDOT asks drivers to be extra cautious around 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.

If you haven’t already done so, make sure to get your vehicle serviced by a mechanic you trust. A properly trained mechanic can check the cooling system, battery, hoses, drive belts, tires and wiper blades to ensure they are in good condition and functioning properly.


Drivers should also frequently check all fluid levels, lights and wiper blades. Tires should be examined often for the correct level of air pressure and adequate tire-tread depth to perform on ice and snow.

In advance of winter travel, you should also prepare or restock a vehicle emergency kit that includes these items:

  • Non-perishable food
  • Water
  • First-aid supplies
  • Warm clothes and a blanket
  • Cell phone charger
  • Small snow shovel
  • Tailor kits to any specific needs such as baby supplies, extra medication and pet supplies

To help make decisions as to whether to travel during winter weather, motorists are encouraged to “Know Before You Go” by checking conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles, including color-coded winter conditions on 2,900 miles, by visiting 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information, access to more than 770 traffic cameras, as well as new plow truck tracking technology.

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


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