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The recent stretch of bone-chilling temperatures creates special challenges for vehicles and drivers, and also makes it difficult for highway maintenance crews to keep snow and ice off roads. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) contracts with county highway departments who utilize a fleet of about 775 plow trucks to help keep people and commerce moving throughout winter along state and federal highways.
“Plowing is the primary method for removing snow and ice from roadways, and it’s really the only practical option during extreme cold,” said Todd Matheson with WisDOT’s Bureau of Highway Maintenance. “Highway crews are doing their best to scrape snow and ice off roadways, but drivers need to do their part by slowing down.”
Salt’s effectiveness declines as pavement temperatures drop below 15-degrees. In lower temperatures, salt may be mixed with calcium chloride or magnesium chloride to improve its effectiveness. Sand may also be used on lower-speed roadways to enhance traction, but vehicle traffic tends to blow it off roadways, and it won’t melt snow or ice. The bottom line: Drivers play a major role in safe winter travel.
• Prior to a trip, check road conditions using the 511 Travel Information System (www.511wi.gov/). When travel becomes especially hazardous, stay off roads until conditions improve and to allow plow operators to do their jobs.
• If you must travel, let others know where you’re headed, buckle-up, slow down and allow plenty of following distance. State law requires drivers remain at least 200 feet behind an active snowplow. If you become stranded, it’s generally safest to remain buckled-up in your vehicle until help arrives.