Snowfall in the high country and a three-day weekend are great excuses to head north for some snowplay. Unfortunately, vehicles tend to wind up parked on the shoulder of a highway like US 180 or even Interstate 17 rather than pulled safely into a designated parking area well off the road. This creates a hazard for more than just the occupants.
The Arizona Department of Transportation reminds those heading to play in the snow that highway shoulders are for emergencies only and that parking on them to play in the snow is hazardous in a number of ways:
- Other drivers may be distracted by your vehicle.
- Other drivers may pull over as well to play in the snow, compounding the problem.
- Your vehicle may interfere with first responders who need to use the shoulder.
- Plows can throw snow and ice far off highways.
- It’s much safer to re-enter highways from on-ramps and other designated entrances.
These dangers apply along all state highways, including US 180 northwest of Flagstaff, where a few snow play areas are located. Those who park on highway shoulders to play, even in areas where traffic may seem light, are endangering themselves and others. Locations of designated snow-play areas are available at FlagstaffArizona.org (click on the Winter Recreation Map link). There’s also a hotline at 844.256.SNOW.
Also, remember to be patient and expect to spend extended time in your vehicle getting to and from snow play areas as lots of people typically head north after it snows.
It’s also important to leave prepared before heading north to play in the snow. ADOT’s suggestions of items to have in a vehicle include warm clothing and blankets, a fully charged mobile phone and charger, a flashlight with extra batteries, drinking water, healthy snacks, a first-aid kit and necessary medications. Get plenty of rest, plan your route and take frequent breaks from driving.
Make sure your gas tank is at least half to three-quarters full at all times, and ensure that your wipers, window defroster, headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals work.