February 8, 2013

Editorial: Bad drivers, not bad roads


---- — With a big snowstorm predicted for today, it’s important that drivers heed some advice offered by a local safety expert.

Dave Werner of the Franklin County Traffic Safety Board stays in good contact with the Press-Republican newsroom about road laws and driving tips designed to ensure safety.

He made two points recently that are worth sharing today: First, that bad drivers cause accidents, not bad roads. Second, that state law forbids people from pushing snow into roads.

Here’s some of what he had to say:

“We need to be aware that it is not the snow and icy roads that cause crashes but rather stupid driving. It happens every year, no matter how much safety experts try to get motorists to slow down when roads are slippery.

“Unfortunately, drivers like to blame something or someone else for their mistakes. It makes them feel like it wasn’t their fault. When they skid off the road, they blame snow or ice on the roads. But, was it the snow, or was it really the driver’s fault for driving too fast for the snowy conditions?

“Article 1180 of NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law states: ‘No person shall drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing.’

“Look at the wording here. It speaks about ‘reasonable and prudent.’ It’s not reasonable and prudent to drive fast on slippery roads. Black ice? Still no excuse. If it’s winter and there has been snow, there is potential for black ice — the wording of ‘actual hazards’ covers snow and ice on the roads and the words ‘potential hazards’ certainly covers the possibility of black ice or slippery spots ...

“A little further in Article 1180, we find words that include: ‘The driver of every vehicle shall ... drive at an appropriate reduced speed … by reason of weather or highway conditions.’

“Being a good driver means complying with Article 1180, which means driving slowly enough and carefully enough to not lose control, even under horrible road conditions,” he said.

As for clearing your driveway after a snowstorm, Werner notes: “Article 1219 of New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law makes it illegal to plow, shovel or blow snow into a street or highway. ... Fines for a first offense include up to a $150 fine and/or 15 days in jail, plus applicable surcharges.

“This law also stipulates that ‘anyone that places or permits to be placed upon any highway any material which interferes with the safe use of the highway shall immediately remove the same or cause it to be removed.’ This includes snow.”

Werner notes that homeowners can be cited if plow operators they hire push snow in the road.

We thank him for sharing information about the law and hope that people listen up.