Gov. Peter Shumlin was joined last week by officials from the Agency of Transportation (VTrans), the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and the Governor’s Highway Safety Program at the VTrans District 5 garage in Colchester to address important issues related to winter driving in Vermont. The group outlined some of the new technologies and tactics that are being deployed to control snow and ice, but also called attention to the critical role that the travelling public plays in the highway safety equation.
“Vermont’s Agency of Transportation has the best snow warriors in the country, and I know Vermonters can rely on them to get the job done,” the Governor said. “Our crews just completed a weekend marathon of plowing, and are now here preparing for the next storm to arrive. And as hard as they work plowing snow, they also look for new ways to make roads safer.”
In addition to expanding the use of brine, VTrans has increased the use of their “tow plows,” a new tool for managing snow events on the interstate that can cover two lanes in a single pass. The tow plows will be operating on I-89, primarily between Richmond and Randolph.
“All the plowing and salting in the world won’t help us if people don’t slow down, put the phone down, put their hands on the wheel and focus on the road,” noted Dave Blackmore, the District 5 Administrator. “We see too many people out there speeding, crowding the plow trucks and driving without proper snow tires. It’s pretty simple. If you slow down and pay attention, you’re much less likely to wind up off the road. We want Vermonters to drive like it’s winter.”
DMV Commissioner Rob Ide announced new penalties aimed at combating distracted driving. Beginning Jan.1, 2014, it will be illegal for a driver to use a hand-held electronic device in a work zone. A conviction for a first offense may result in a fine of $230 and a 2 point assessment on your license. A second conviction carries a fine of $479 and 5 points on your license.
There will also be an increase in the point assessment for a conviction of a first offense of texting while driving, increasing from 2 points to 5 points.
Ted Minall from the Governor’s Highway Safety Program noted that Vermont’s overall fatalities are running slightly lower than last year.