ORBA speaks out for snowplow safety

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By Anja Karadeglija

Special to Ottawa Construction News

The arrival of an Ontario winter means the appearance of snow is inevitable – and so is the presence of more than 1,000 snowplows on the province’s roads this year.

To make the season a little bit safer, the Ontario Road Builders’ Association (ORBA) has started a campaign promoting snowplow safety aimed at residents across the province.

ORBA started the “Let Us Lead the Way” campaign because it wanted to lower the number of snowplow-related accidents that happen each winter, said executive director Geoff Wilkinson.

“We want to make sure Ontario roads and highways are safer,” said Wilkinson. “There are approximately 33 accidents that involve these vehicles every year.”

The association partnered with Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation on the campaign, as well as the Ontario Provincial Police and the Canadian Automobile Association. Many ORBA members both build and maintain Ontario roads, which includes snow clearance.

“We work very closely with the MTO on different areas that they are interested in as well, and there have been a number of accidents on Ontario’s roads and highways, so it’s a good fit there for the both of us,” Wilkinson explained. “Snowplow safety is a concern for both them as well as us, reducing the number of injuries and deaths on Ontario’s highways, especially those that occur around snowplows.”

Accidents happen when people drive recklessly around snowplows or try to pass them, he said. When there’s snow accumulation, sometimes people will drive aggressively when they should be driving cautiously and keeping the snow conditions in mind, he added.

“Our target is the general motorists in Ontario – everyone who is using Ontario’s roads and highways this winter,” Wilkinson said.

The main message of the campaign is to let motorists know that when they see flashing blue lights, they should slow down and let the snowplow lead the way.

The safety tips for motorists available on the website include keeping a safe distance behind operational snow plows, not passing or driving beside snow plows, and moving to the right to ensure there is enough space for a plow driving down the centre line from the opposite direction to pass safely. Drivers should also be aware that powdery snow behind the plows can cause reduced visibility, watch out for plows even on sunny days, and never pass between snowplows that are working in tandem.

 Campaign events have been held across the province, starting with a November launch in Ottawa, and the campaign will communicate its message through its website and Twitter.

 While ORBA has held other campaigns safety campaigns in the past, including one about safe driving in construction zones, this is the first year of the snowplow campaign, and ORBA plans to keep it going in the future.

“It’s something that we think is very important,” Wilkinson said.

He pointed out that the safety of those driving the plows is also at stake. “It’s not only the public that can be injured in these accidents, it’s also the snowplow operators, and we want them to arrive home at the end of their shift safely as well,” he said.

ORBA will continue spreading the message across Ontario over the winter months.

“I think if we can prevent an accident – if we can prevent a serious injury or a death, then we’ve done our part and we’ve helped to accomplish what we wanted to this year,” he explained, adding that even one death or serious injury is too much.

“Hopefully we’ll have a mild winter, but you never know,” Wilkinson said. “The joy of our province is that we tend to get snow everywhere, even if we don’t get a lot of it in certain areas, the times that we do get snow, we’re there, our members are there, and they’re clearing that snow and ice, so it’s still a very important message to get out to everyone across Ontario.”

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