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Winter driving safety
A semi on a snowy interstate

Winter driving safety

Whenever snow falls, the Ohio Department of Transportation's crews will be ready -- motorists can also help by following a few smart winter driving tips.

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is ‘working for winter’ to ensure that Ohio’s economic engine never stops running, even when snow and ice blanket our state. to make sure Ohioans can safely get to work, goods can get to market on-time, and vital services are accessible all across the state.

Top tips

LEAVE EARLY - Expect any trip to take double the normal amount of time. 

PLAN YOUR ROUTE - Avoid steep upgrades and lightly traveled roads where deep snow drifts may form.

SLOW DOWN - Slick pavement means reduced traction and loss of control.  On snow or ice the posted speed limit is NOT a safe speed.

INCREASE FOLLOWING DISTANCE - It can take from 3 to 10 times farther to stop on winter-slick pavement than on a dry road.  Allow a large gap between yourself and the car ahead of you.

STOP GRADUALLY - Never slam on your brakes in ice or snow

Slippery when wet!

First snow or ice — Drivers aren’t prepared for winter driving and forget to take it slow. Remember to drive well below the posted speed limit and leave plenty of room between cars.
Black ice — Roads that seem dry may actually be slippery — and dangerous. Take it slow when approaching intersections, off-ramps, bridges or shady areas — all are hot spots for black ice. Remember, Ice and Snow…Take it Slow.
Limited visibility — Stay attentive and reduce speed. Know what’s going on around you.

Safe around snowplows

Distance — Give snowplows room to work. The plows are wide and can cross the centerline or shoulder. Don’t tailgate and try not to pass. If you must pass, take extreme caution and beware of the snow cloud.
Speed — Snowplows travel below the posted speed limit. Be patient. Ice and Snow…Take it Slow.
Vision — A snowplow operator’s field of vision is restricted. You may see them, but they don’t always see you. Keep your distance and watch for sudden stops or turns.

Don't crowd the plow

Watch Out For Blind Spots — The plow driver’s field of vision is limited. If you can’t see the plow’s side mirrors, the driver can’t see you. Stay two to three car lengths behind the plow.
Ice & Snow … Take it Slow — Snowplows travel well below the posted speed limit. Be patient. Try not to pass the plow. Watch for sudden stops or turns.
Beware of Snow Clouds — Snow plows often create clouds as they clear the roads. These Snow clouds can reduce your ability to see.  

Proceed with caution!

Speed and Distance —The faster you’re going, the longer it will take to stop. When accelerating on snow or ice, take it slow to avoid slipping and sliding. Ice and Snow…Take it Slow.
Brake — Brake early, brake slowly, brake correctly, and never slam on the brakes. If you have anti-lock brakes, press the pedal down firmly and hold it. If you don’t have anti-lock brakes, gently pump the pedal. Either way, give yourself plenty of room to stop.
Control — When driving on ice and snow, do not use cruise control and avoid abrupt steering maneuvers. When merging into traffic, take it slow. Sudden movements can cause your vehicle to slide.
Vision — Be aware of what’s going on well ahead of you. Actions by other vehicles will alert you to problems more quickly, and give you that split-second of extra time to react safely.

Be prepared!

Knowledge — Before leaving home, find out about the driving conditions by logging on to www.BuckeyeTraffic.org. Safe drivers know the weather, and their limits. If the weather is bad, remember, Ice and Snow…Take it Slow, or just don't go.
Clear —Remove any snow on your vehicle’s windows, lights, brake lights and signals. Make sure you can see and be seen.
Inspect —Check your vehicle’s tires, wiper blades, fluids, lights, belts, and hoses. A breakdown is bad on a good day and dangerous on a bad-weather day.
Time — Leave plenty of time to reach your destination safely. It’s not worth putting yourself and others in a dangerous situation just to be on time.

Snow Emergency Levels

ODOT is not authorized or responsible for issuing Snow Emergency Levels. Law enforcement agencies, specifically County Sheriffs, make and enforce such declarations.
Please consult the local county sheriff’s offices for the current level in your area.

Snow emergency level definitions

Level 1 Snow Emergency
  • Roadways are hazardous with blowing and drifting snow.
  • Roads may also be icy.
  • Drive carefully. 
Level 2 Snow Emergency
  • Roadways are hazardous with blowing and drifting snow.
  • Only those who feel it is necessary to drive should be out on the roads.
  • Contact your employer to see if you should report to work.
Level 3 Snow Emergency
  • All roadways are closed to non-emergency personnel.
  • No one else should be out during these conditions unless it is absolutely necessary to travel or a personal emergency exists.
  • All employees should contact their employer to see if they should report to work. Those traveling on the roads may subject themselves to arrest.
To ODOT's knowledge there is not one centralized location available for collecting and publicly sharing the current Snow Emergency Level for the state's 88 counties at this time. This information is not available on ODOT's Web sites (including www.ohgo.com or www.BuckeyeTraffic.org).
To identify the status of the snow emergency level(s) affecting your travels, please contact the Sheriff's office(s) for each county you travel in or through during winter weather events. Contact information and links (when available) for all of Ohio's 88 counties are available through the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association website.