A forecasted snowstorm and a long weekend is a great excuse to head north for some snowplay. Too often, however, a vehicle full of people heading to play in the snow winds up parked on the shoulder of a state highway or even Interstate 17 rather than pulled safely into a designated parking area well off the road. This creates a hazard for more than just the occupants.
The Arizona Department of Transportation reminds those heading to play in the snow that highway shoulders are for emergencies only and that parking on them to play in the snow is hazardous in a number of ways:
- Other drivers may be distracted by your vehicle.
- Other drivers may pull over as well to play in the snow, compounding the problem.
- Your vehicle may interfere with first responders who need to use the shoulder.
- Plows can throw snow and ice far off highways.
- It’s much safer to re-enter highways from on-ramps and other designated entrances.
These dangers apply along highways other than interstates, including US 180 northwest of Flagstaff, where desert dwellers often go after it snows. Those who park on highway shoulders to play, even in areas where traffic may seem light, are endangering themselves and others. Locations of designated snow-play areas are available at FlagstaffArizona.org (follow the Winter Recreation Map link). There’s also a hotline at 844.256.SNOW.
Also, remember to pack your patience and expect to spend extended time in your vehicle getting to and from snow play areas as lots of people typically head north after it snows.
It’s also important to leave prepared before heading north to play in the snow. ADOT’s suggestions of items to have in a vehicle include warm clothing and blankets, a fully charged mobile phone and charger, a flashlight with extra batteries, drinking water, healthy snacks, a first-aid kit and necessary medications. Get plenty of rest, plan your route and take frequent breaks from driving.
Make sure your gas tank is at least half to three-quarters full at all times, and ensure that your wipers, window defroster, headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals work.
To stay up-to-date with the latest highway conditions around the state, visit the ADOT Traveler Information website at az511.gov or call 511. ADOT’s Twitter (@ArizonaDOT) and Facebook page (/AZDOT) are excellent sources of information and interaction.
Get more safety tips at azdot.gov/KnowSnow.