Harrisburg – As temperatures have dropped significantly during the first week of 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is highlighting winter safety laws, and urging drivers to prepare appropriately. 

“It’s important to remind drivers about winter safety laws, such as clearing vehicles of ice and snow, but we also need to promote driver readiness,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said. “Drivers who may have been holding off due to relatively mild weather should be sure they and their vehicles are prepared for the rest of the season.”

Richards urged drivers who haven’t already done so to get their vehicles serviced by a mechanic they 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.

Finally, in advance of winter travel, the traveling public should prepare or restock a vehicle emergency kit. The kit should contain items such as nonperishable food, water, first-aid supplies, warm clothes, a blanket, cellphone charger and a small snow shovel. Motorists should tailor their kits to any specific needs that they or their families have, such as baby supplies, extra medication and pet supplies.

PennDOT also reminds motorists that their 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 causing death or serious bodily injury, the operator of that vehicle could receive a $200 to $1,000 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.

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