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Let The Blue Light Lead The Way

Safe winter driving is the responsibility of all drivers on Ontario roads. Too often we see people driving too fast for winter road conditions and passing snow plows.

Once again this winter the Ontario Road Builders Association is reminding Ontario drivers about safe winter driving and have expanded our Let Us Lead The Way – Snow Plow Safety campaign to include safe winter driving tips and suggestions including the dangers of passing snow plows.

Driving beside snow plows, passing or crowding them puts drivers and snow plow operators at a risk of collision. The fact is, the best road conditions are behind snow plows. It is the safest place for drivers to be.

So leave some distance and let the blue light lead the way.

Winter Maintenance Service Partners

The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is responsible for establishing seasonal maintenance service levels on provincial highways, under Section 33 of the Public Transportation Highway Improvement Act. MTO utilize the expertise of area maintenance service partners to perform this work through competitive contract awards. The service providers deliver all maintenance activities in adherence to the MTO’s contract requirements. Area maintenance contractors are represented as an industry through the Ontario Road Builders’ Association (ORBA) and work together with the MTO as members of the Area Maintenance Contractors Council.

Area maintenance service partners employ thousands of individuals across the province and pride themselves in delivering exceptional service. Our operators, patrollers and supervisory staff are committed to keeping Ontario’s roads of the safest in North America. ORBA recognizes that safety is a shared accountability and a joint responsibility between drivers and area maintenance service providers.

Ontario drivers can help keep winter roads safe by:

• Driving according to weather and highway conditions
• Adjusting speed (slowing down) when visibility and road conditions deteriorate
• Planning routes in advance (use resources such as the weather network and *511)
• Avoiding non-essential travel during winter snow storms
• Using winter snow tires
• Maintaining your vehicle
• Allowing snow plows sufficient time and space to do their job (Do not pass snow plows)

“Poor driving behaviour – not poor weather or road conditions was a primary leading factor in many of last winter’s single and multi-vehicle crashes, taking an unrelenting toll on road users, the movement of traffic and the provincial social costs associated with motor vehicle collisions.”*

MTO’s performance target is to achieve bare pavement within the set timeframe for 90% of all winter storms. Results are publicly reported on an annual basis and to date since records have been kept, that target has been exceeded.

What you can expect from winter maintenance service partners:

• Plowing starts when 2 cm of snow or slush accumulate on the highway Salt and deploying sand equipment within 30 minutes of highway surface conditions which may result in slippery conditions
• Crews monitoring the winter storm and adjusting winter operations as required based on intensity, duration and precipitation type
• Plowing, salting and after storm clean-up as per contract requirements

Here is what the MTO and its service provider partners will be doing in preparing and managing the highways:

In advance of a winter storm:

• Continual monitoring of road and weather conditions
• Ensuring staff, supplies and equipment are ready and available
• When it is best to do so, applying anti-icing liquid, salt or sand to the highway surface
• Planning when to start salting, sanding or plowing operations

During a storm:

• Continuing to closely monitor highway, weather and traffic conditions
• Applying salt or anti-icing liquid to help prevent the snow from bonding to the highway surface
• Allowing time for salt to turn to a liquid prior to plowing if required
• Following pre-determined spreader and plow routes ensuring the highways are serviced in compliance with MTO contract requirement
• Continuing to plow snow and apply salt and sand as required during the storm to minimize snow accumulation and maintain traction
• Servicing the exit ramps, turning, truck climbing and passing lanes, shoulders and medians
• When it is too cold for salt to work, applying sand to the highway to improve friction
• Assisting OPP with road closures and emergencies when required

After a storm:

• Restocking salt, sand and anti-icing liquids as required
• Continue monitoring road, weather and traffic conditions
• As required plowing, salting or sanding the highway as per contract requirements for clean-up operations
• Addressing snow from shoulders, medians, truck climbing and passing lanes
• Addressing any snow banks that may cause a hazard
• Addressing snow or ice that may cause problems at ditches and culverts
• Checking for damage to items such as signs and guardrails that may have occurred during the storm and making repairs
• Inspecting and, if needed, repairing winter equipment
• Restocking salt, sand and anti-icing liquids

You should also be aware, that in winter:

• Severe or long storms may delay restoring a highway to service levels, even with the exceptional work of crews and equipment
• Extreme weather may result in some highways being closed
• Weather conditions can change quickly and be unpredictable, placing extra demands on your car and on your driving skills
• Generally salt becomes ineffective for melting ice at temperatures below minus 12 degrees celcius so there may be a shift to sand
• All working snow plows have a flashing blue light. When you see the blue light flashing, slow down, keep a safe distance between you and the equipment ahead and do not attempt to pass.
• Contractors also use tow-plows; a tow-plow is a regular plow blade mounted on a trailer and pulled behind a standard plow truck, allowing the truck to clear two lanes at once

What results can be expected?

MTO sets performance targets for snow and ice control to achieve the bare pavement service standard after the end of the storm. The bare pavement service standard for each class of highway is:

Highway Class 1 within 8 hours of the end of a winter storm
Highway Class 2 within 16 hours of the end of a winter storm
Highway Class 3 within 24 hours of the end of a winter storm
Highway Class 4 centre bare within 24 hours of the end of a winter storm; full bare pavement when conditions permit
Highway Class 5 snow packed within 24 hours of the end of a winter storm
Hyperlink to MTO Map

For questions or concerns related to winter highway maintenance email:

winterhighways@ontario.ca

Comments, questions or feedback can also be directed to individual contractors by contract region.

Southern Ontario Maintenance Contractors

* OPP to Drivers: Help us Prevent Another Chaotic Winter on Roads, OPP Commissioner JVN (Vince) Hawkes, November 6, 2014

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