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Tips For Safe Winter Driving From The State Police

Angela Evancie
Resident Matt Doubleday helped push a car out of the snow in Burlington Thursday morning.

With more than 100 reported accidents in the past 24 hours, this week's storm is proving to be one of the winter's most difficult for Vermont drivers. Vermont State Police Lt. Garry Scott, head of traffic operations, has some tips for winter driving.

When you see an accident, slow down and move over

Don't be the kind of person the Vermont State Police are tweeting about. Scott says when drivers are approaching the scene of an accident, they should be sure to go slow.

"One thing to consider is that when we have conditions like this, with the layer of ice underneath the snow, is that your stopping distance could be tripled," he said. In conditions like Thursday morning's, a car traveling at 65 miles per hour can take up to 900 feet to stop, Scott said. With emergency workers on the roadway near the scene of an accident, Scott said drivers should get in the opposite lane and keep their speed around 40 miles per hour at the most.

Take care when passing plows. Conditions are worse ahead of them.

Because plow trucks are already large vehicles and are often surrounded by clouds of snow that they stir up, Scott says it's important to give them a lot of room if you choose to pass. Wide plows aren't always visible through the snow, so it's important to give the trucks a wide berth when passing.

The other thing to consider is that just because it feels safe going faster than a plow behind the plow doesn't mean the roadway will be that good in front of it. The plow is, after all, the reason the road is as good as it is.

Not too fast, not too slow.

Scott said that just because the posted speed limit is 65 miles per hour doesn't mean drivers have to go that fast. In fact, on days with heavy snow and wind, they shouldn't.

"Sixty-five is not for today." - VSP Lt. Garry Scott

Drivers should stay between 30 and 45 miles per hour if they feel comfortable at those speeds. But going much slower than that can also be a safety concern.

"If you're going dramatically slower than [30 to 45 miles per hour] and you don't feel comfortable, you should be getting off the road and not heading out at all," he said. In those cases, traffic is approaching the slow cars "rather quickly and then slowing down and then they're losing control and then going off the roadway.

If you can, stay off the roads.

The bottom line: "If you don't have to be out there, please don't. Let the [Agency of Transportation] do their jobs, get the roads cleaned up."

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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