Kindergarteners up to Grade 3 students from Our Lady of the Rosary School got the chance to get up close and personal with a snowplow Mar. 13 during the eleventh Annual Safer Winter Highway Campaign.
“The campaign is really to raise awareness for how snow plow operation happens and also to put a human face to it,” said Dana Myckan, the Safer Winter Highways campaign manager.
This year’s campaign “Show Off the Plows!” gives students a chance to find out more about how snowplow operators keep the provincial highways cleared during the winter. Snow plow drivers Kurt, Bernie, Dana, Dave and John gave the students the faces behind the machines keeping the the road clear of ice and snow during the winter.
Alberta Transportation speaker Jodeen Swan asked the students about what they should have in their emergency road kits in case their family breaks down on the highway. Students suggested first aid kits, flashlights, extra food and water. Swan added cell phone and booster cables to the list and then asked students why they might want to also take some kitty litter. After some deliberation several of the students thought it might be used to put a fire out. Swan explained the litter could be used to help with the tires so they don’t slip in case the car gets stuck.
Highway maintenance speaker Kurt Wilkie talked to the students about the process of ensuring the roads are clear. Students learned that between October and April, people are sent out at 2 a.m. to check all the roads to see if there’s any ice or snow. Once they’ve checked, they submit their reports to Alberta’s Official Road Reports on their website: 511.Alberta.ca so the reports are available for people to check on by 6 a.m. The reports also show whether there is a snowplow on the road or not.
“They work very hard to make sure the roads are clear of ice and snow and then you can get there safely,” said Wilkie of the drivers who came for the presentation.
Wilkie asked the students to take home a message to their parents: “Drive slow. Give the snowplow some room and slow down out there.”
Myckan reinforced Wilkie’s message by talking about how the safest place to be during a snowstorm is behind a snowplow. While passing a snowplow is not technically illegal, Myckan said it is not recommended. She also said it is definitely not a good idea to pass them at full speed as it’s far too easy to rear-end the snowplow or lose visibility completely due to the clouds of snow that can be created by the large vehicles.
“We are here to make sure that kids understand how to behave around snow plows so they become our backseat drivers,”said Myckan, adding that people not slowing down for snow plows is currently a big issue. For snow plows to do a proper job, they generally have to go half the speed limit on a regular highway.
The students all got a chance to get lifted up into the driver’s seat of one of the three snow plows parked at the school to get the perspective of a driver. Myckan said she sees a high job satisfaction rate with snow plow drivers.
“The people who do this, do this for a very long time. They get into it and they don’t stop doing it,” said Myckan.
511.Alberta.ca is a government service that used to be run by AMA. The Safer Winter Highways Campaign is funded through a partnership between Alberta Transportation and the Alberta Roadbuilders & Heavy Construction Association.