NCDOT reminds motorists that even though workers may not be present in work zones, motorists can still encounter narrowed lanes and traffic shifts, and that work zone speed limits are still in effect. The penalty for speeding through a marked work zone is $250.
Additionally, the department offers the following driving tips:
- Stay alert;
- Wear a seat belt;
- Don’t drink and drive;
- Use approved child restraints;
- Be patient and obey the posted speed limit;
- Don’t tailgate;
- Watch out for road debris;
- Avoid in-car distractions;
- Leave early to get a head start on your drive and travel at non-peak times;
- Use alternate routes, when possible, to avoid traffic congestion; and
- Call 511, the department’s free travel information line, or visit NCDOT’s Traveler Information Management System (TIMS) for real-time travel information.
Motorists should also remember to move over when passing stopped emergency vehicles or if involved in a minor accident. Under the "Move Over" law, motorists are required to change lanes or slow down when passing stopped law enforcement, emergency vehicles, wreckers and Incident Management Assistance Patrol (IMAP) vehicles with flashing lights.
Similarly, the "Fender Bender" law requires motorists to clear the roadway of non-injury accidents to help keep traffic moving and reduce the likelihood of secondary crashes.
If travel is absolutely necessary, motorists should use the following precautions:
- Clear windows and mirrors;
- Reduce speed and leave plenty of room between you and other vehicles;
- Maintain a safe following distance behind brine application trucks, and plow and spreader trucks;
- Bridges and overpasses accumulate ice first. Approach them with extreme caution and do not apply your brakes while on the bridge;
- If you begin to slide, take your foot off the gas and turn the steering wheel in the direction of the slide. Do not apply the brakes as that will cause further loss of control of the car;
- If you have a cellular phone, take it with you; you can contact the Highway Patrol statewide by calling HP (*47) or call the county emergency center by dialing 911; and
- Come to a complete stop or yield the right of way when approaching an intersection where traffic lights are out. Treat this scenario as a four-way stop.
How NCDOT prepares for winter:
- Preparations are handled locally out of each county maintenance yard.
- Dry runs are held, where maintenance crews drive their routes.
- Contractors that are on call to assist within each county participate in the dry runs.
- Salt is replenished, equipment is cleaned/prepared/serviced.
- Salt brine storage tanks are filled.
Use of salt brine:
- Salt brine is a salt and water solution that is 23 percent salt and keeps the ice from bonding to the road.
- Salt brine is an extremely cost-effective way to keep roadways safe, costing about 15 cents per gallon to manufacture. It costs $6.00 to pre-treat one lane mile with salt brine, compared to about $14.38 to apply rock salt to one lane mile after a storm has hit.
- NCDOT owns brine production plants, which are located at county maintenance yards, in each of the 14 field divisions.
- The Department purchased additional brine equipment this year to provide better coverage and facilitate more efficient snow removal operations.
- Brine is made by loading a hopper with salt, adding water, and agitating until the solution is 23 percent salt. The solution is then pumped into a holding tank and loaded onto application trucks to be sprayed on the roadway.
How NCDOT determines which roads will receive the anti-icing treatment:
- Bare pavement routes are top priority in snow removal. Brine is applied to high-priority bare pavement route roads; interstates are top priority.
- The bare pavement system consists of interstate and four-lane divided primary routes and other primary and secondary routes considered to be essential to the fulfillment of the movement of intrastate traffic. Each division evaluates their bare pavement routes and prioritizes anti-icing and de-icing accordingly.
- The decision to pre-treat roads is made 24-48 hours in advance of a storm. If it is around 32 degrees and forecasted to be frozen precipitation, roads are typically pre-treated. Brine, however has to be applied to the road when it is not raining because the rain will dilute the solution and wash it off the road. If an event starts as rain and then freezes, the effectiveness of pre-treating may be lost.
- Brine can be used to pretreat down to 18 degrees.
Salt and sand information:
- The department is able to store 162,000 tons of salt statewide and uses between 50,000 and 60,000 tons during a typical winter. The past two years have been extremely active in regard to snow and ice and the department has utilized in excess of 210,000 tons of salt each year.
- This year, the department purchased an additional 100,000 gallons of brine storage capacity to increase capacity to 450,000 gallons.
- NCDOT’s array of snow and ice clearing equipment includes more than 1,900 trucks equipped with plows and spreaders, 325 front-end loaders and backhoes, and 450 motor graders. The department also outfits pick-up trucks with snowplows to clear less-traveled roads.
- NCDOT trained more than 1,600 employees for snow and ice treatment in 2011 and has about 3,200 trained employees available to respond during winter weather.
Winter Weather Budget:
- NCDOT typically budgets $30 million per year for snow and ice removal and pre-treating. Additional funds, if necessary, are drawn from emergency reserves.
- In 2009-2010, when much of the state received above average snowfalls, the department spent $65 million for winter weather - $50 million on primary roads and $15 million on secondary routes. In comparison, in 2000 (the year at least two feet of snow covered most of the state) the department spent $42.8 million total. In 2010-2011 the state once again received above average snowfall and the Department spent in excess of $65 million in snow and ice removal operations.
- For this year, fiscal year 2011-2012, the department has increased its budget for winter weather operations to $50 million.
How NCDOT prioritizes what roads are to be cleared first:
- The department gives first priority to clearing interstates and four-lane divided primary routes that are essential to the movement of intrastate and regional traffic. After these roads are clear, priority moves to clearing lower-volume primary roads, high-volume secondary roads, lower-volume secondary roads, then subdivision streets.
How NCDOT works with county and local governments to coordinate road clearing efforts:
- Many municipalities maintain DOT system streets normally and during winter weather events they will also incorporate state roads into their snow removal plans. County governments do not remove snow on highways.
How NCDOT responds to weather conditions:
- NCDOT works closely with the National Weather Service and receives forecasts directly from their meteorologists.
- During a winter storm, county maintenance crews in affected areas are typically on standby around the clock to monitor changing weather conditions and treat roads.
- Small dump trucks hold 7 tons of salt and larger dump trucks hold 8-9 tons of salt
- 120,000 tons of salt = 1.27 billion salt shakers
- 40,000 tons of salt is enough salt to fill up 5,714 dump trucks and 426 million salt shakers
- Each dump truck is 19.5 feet long and if you lined them up end to end, the line would extend for 21 miles
For the latest information on road conditions, call 511 or access the Traveler Information Management System (TIMS).
Heavy rain and flash flooding create hazardous driving conditions, thereby increasing the likelihood of an accident. To help improve safety and reduce the likelihood of a crash, motorists should take the following precautions:
- Allow more travel time and keep vehicle tires and brakes in good working condition. Buckle your own seat belt and secure children in child safety seats or booster seats in the back of the vehicle;
- Reduce your speed and drive defensively. Motorists should drive at least five to 10 miles per hour slower on wet pavement and allow at least twice the normal following distance between cars to provide ample room for stopping. Keep a distance between your car and the one in front of you. Be ready for a sudden stop. Remember that the driver behind you cannot see well either. Signal for turns ahead of time and brake early as you near a stop. Be patient and do not pass lines of traffic;
- Stay in the car and wait for the heavy rain to let up. Roads are the slickest once rain has begun to fall, especially if it has not rained for a while. For the first 10 to 15 minutes, the rain combines with dirt, dust, oil, grease and rubber to create a slippery surface. If the rain is extremely heavy, stop and pull over with your emergency flashers on, away from any trees or other tall objects. If motorists must exit the vehicle, they should do so on the passenger side of the car;
- Turn on your low beam headlights and use the defroster to increase visibility whether it is day or night. North Carolina law states that motorists must use their headlights at all times while using windshield wipers regardless of the time of day. High beams, or “brights,” could reflect off the fog and decrease visibility;
- If possible, stay in the middle lane. Most American roads are higher in the middle, so there is a greater chance of water runoff and standing water in the side lanes;
- After driving through a puddle, tap your brake pedal to help dry your brake rotors. Try to avoid pools of standing water; they could be hiding holes in the pavement. Do not try to cross running water;
- It is best to take shelter and wait out the storm at a rest stop or other public place. If you take shelter under an overpass or bridge, park on the shoulder and be careful not to block traffic. The weather could reduce visibility, and other drivers may have difficulty seeing your vehicle;
- Do not drive through flooded areas. If you see a flooded roadway ahead, turn around and take an alternate route to your destination. If there is no alternate route, head to higher ground and wait for the water to subside. Do not attempt to cross over a flooded road even if it seems shallow. Just one foot of water can float many vehicles, while two feet of rushing water can carry away vehicles including SUVs and pick-ups;
- Do not drive if you are tired or distracted. Driving in wet weather requires you to be alert, particularly at night. If you are tired, pull off the road to a safe place and take a break, or better yet, postpone your trip. You should also avoid eating, drinking, talking on the phone, adjusting the radio, or handing items to children in the back seat – anything requiring you to take one or both hands off the steering wheel momentarily;
- Know what to do if your car begins to hydroplane. Hydroplaning occurs when your tires glide across the surface of the water on the road. If your car starts to hydroplane, take your foot off the gas, but do not stomp on the brakes. Instead, apply the brakes in a steady, slightly firm manner, and steer in the direction of the skid. If you have a manual transmission (i.e. stick shift), push in the clutch and let the car slow down on its own. If you have an automatic transmission, hold the steering wheel steady and lightly apply the brakes. For cars that have antilock brakes, you should apply more pressure (steady) to the brakes, but avoid pumping them; and
- Put together a supply kit for your trunk. Include a flashlight, first aid kit with an instructional manual, blanket, booster cables, shovel, sand to give tires needed traction, snacks and drinking water, and safety flares or an orange or red cloth to tie to the antenna.
These are the groups who are most likely to drive drowsy:
- Young people, especially men, who feel they can push themselves harder;
- Adults with young children, particularly new parents, who often have not had a full night's sleep;
- Shift workers who log long hours outside of the regular workday; and
- People with sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy and insomnia.
Even if you do not fall into one of those groups, you are still at risk of driving while sleep-deprived. Follow these tips to prevent drowsy driving:
- Get at least six hours of good sleep the night before a trip — eight hours or more is preferred;
- Stop, pull over to a safe place and take a nap if you become sleepy while driving and are unable to switch drivers;
- Travel at times when you are normally awake. Our bodies want to rest between midnight and 6 a.m. and then again between 1 and 3 p.m. Try to avoid being on the road at these times;
- Travel with an awake passenger who can keep a conversation going;
- Take a break every two hours or every 150 miles, sooner if you become sleepy. Going on a short walk or stretching will help increase the blood flow and keep you awake; and
- Drink a caffeinated beverage and wait about 30 minutes for it to enter the bloodstream. But remember, caffeine will help keep you awake but not always alert.
When drivers stop focusing on the road ahead, they react more slowly to traffic conditions. Inattentive drivers are also more likely not to recognize potential hazards such as pedestrians or debris in the road and less likely to skillfully conduct preventative or evasive moves to avoid a crash.
Motorists should follow these tips to avoid distractions inside their vehicles:
- Pre-program radio stations for easy access and select CDs before you start driving;
- Keep the stereo at a volume low enough so that you can hear sounds outside of your vehicle such as a siren, a horn or the screeching of tires;
- Designate a front-seat passenger to serve as a "co-pilot," so you do not have to fumble with maps or navigation systems. If you are driving alone, map out destinations in advance;
- Teach children the importance of good behavior while in a vehicle. Do not underestimate how distracting it can be to tend to them in the car;
- Avoid talking on a cell phone while driving. If you must call someone, use a hands-free device;
- Do your personal grooming at home, not in the car;
- Make sure pets are in a carrier; and
- Do not eat while driving. It prohibits you from keeping your hands on the steering wheel and your eyes on the road.
To help limit distractions outside your vehicle:
- Avoid reading signs or watching activity on the roadside for long periods of time;
- Do not stop and talk to people outside your vehicle while driving; and
- Only allow passengers to enter your car when it is parked in a safe location. Do not pick up riders at stoplights or stop signs.
NCDOT recommends drivers follow these tips to make the roads safer for everyone:
- Check all vehicle lights to ensure they work properly. This includes headlights, parking lights, turn signals/emergency flashers, brake lights, tail and marker lights, interior lights and instrumentation lighting;
- Make sure your vehicle’s headlights are on and aimed properly;
- Use the night setting on your rearview mirror to avoid glare from oncoming headlights;
- Switch your headlights from high beam to low beam as oncoming vehicles approach;
- Drive cautiously. Be alert and watchful for bicyclists and pedestrians on the roadside, as well as at crosswalks. They may not see or hear you coming;
- Supervise small children as they enter and exit the vehicle, especially when parking on a street. Let them get in or out through a curbside door away from traffic;
- Remove sunglasses at dusk to increase visibility. Motorists often forget they are wearing them;
- Keep your eyes moving from side to side while driving, rather than focusing on the center line or the road ahead. This practice keeps your eyes adjusted to the dark and helps avoid “highway hypnosis,” a state which impairs reaction time; and
- Be sure you are well rested. Adjusting to the loss of an hour of sleep can make you tired. Do not drive if you feel drowsy.
- Wear brightly colored clothing or reflective gear that is easily illuminated by a vehicle’s headlights;
- Use crosswalks. Do not jaywalk;
- Look both ways before crossing the street; and
- Walk on sidewalks when possible and face oncoming traffic.
While a crash involving a deer can happen at any time, the majority of deer-vehicle collisions occur between the months of October and December, when deer activity increases due to the mating and hunting seasons. Incidents are most common during the hours of 5 p.m. to 7 a.m., when deer movement increases and limited lighting makes it more difficult for motorists to see them on or near roads.
NCDOT offers the following suggestions for motorists to avoid being in a deer-vehicle collision:
- Slow down in posted deer crossing areas and heavily wooded areas, especially during the dark hours of fall;
- Drive with high beams on, when possible, and watch out for eyes reflecting in the headlights;
- Remember that deer often travel in groups, so do not assume that all is clear if one deer has already passed; and
- Do not swerve to avoid contact with deer. This could cause the vehicle to flip or veer into oncoming traffic, causing a more serious crash.