Pittsburgh, PA – As the region has experienced winter storms earlier this season, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) highlights safe driving tips in conjunction with Winter Driving Awareness Week, which runs through January 10.

PennDOT advises drivers to stay in during inclement weather unless it’s necessary to be out. However, if motorists do need to travel, they are urged to practice the following winter driving tips:

  • Use low beams in snowy weather;
  • Keep the gas tank at least half full;
  • Slow down your speed;
  • Increase the following distance from the vehicle in front of you;
  • Use extra caution on bridges and ramps, where ice can form without warning.

To maintain visibility, Pennsylvania law states motorists must properly clear their vehicles from snow and ice before getting on the road, especially from the mirrors, roof, trunk and hood. Drivers can be cited $200 to $1,000 for not clearing their vehicle if snow and ice are dislodged and strike another, causing a crash.

To help make decisions regarding winter travel, motorists are encouraged to “Know Before You Go” by checking conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles, including color-coded winter conditions on 2,900 miles, by visiting www.511PA.com. 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 1,000 traffic cameras. Users can also see plow truck statuses and travel alerts along a specific route using the “Check My Route” tool.

511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional Twitter alerts accessible on the 511PA website.

Drivers should 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;
  • When a plow truck is traveling toward you, move as far away from the center of the road as is safely possible, as 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;”
  • Never drive next to a plow truck since there are blind spots where the operator can’t see;
  • Keep your lights on to help the operator better see your vehicle.

Additionally, motorists should prepare their vehicles for the winter by checking fluid levels, lights, defrosters and windshield wiper blades, in addition to ensuring proper tire air pressure and adequate tread depth. If maintaining the vehicle is a challenge for the owner, these minor checks can be conducted by any auto care professional.

Emergency kits should be replenished to keep families safe in the event they are stuck in the vehicle. Supplies may include non-perishable food, water, first-aid supplies, warm clothes, a blanket, cell phone charger and a small snow shovel. Kits can be tailored to the specific needs of the individuals in the vehicle, with items such as baby supplies, extra medication, pet supplies or even children’s games.

For more information on safe winter travel, an emergency kit checklist and information on PennDOT’s winter operations including a video, visit PennDOT.gov/winter. Additional winter driving and other highway safety information is available at PennDOT.gov/safety.

For more PennDOT information, visit www.PennDot.gov/winter.

For regional twitter updates, visit www.511PAPittsburgh.