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Do speed restrictions help prevent accidents in snow?

By Bo Koltnow, Reporter, BKoltnow@wfmz.com
Published On: Feb 17 2014 03:46:23 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 17 2014 04:31:04 PM CST

When the snow piles up, drivers are told to slow down on the major highways, but are speed restrictions really effective in preventing accidents?

When the snow piles up, drivers are told to slow down on the major highways, but are speed restrictions really effective in preventing accidents?

It's a question some are asking after Friday's series of crashes on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Bucks County.

During strong storms, speeds on highways are typically reduced to 45 miles per hour, but some drivers said many don't adhere to the rule.

"They just fly by you," one driver said.

"Just seems that trucks, some will adhere to it, but some will cut you off," said another.

Wintry weather from Atlanta to Pennsylvania and New Jersey recently caused major accidents on highways.

Those on the turnpike in Bucks County involved more than 60 cars and several tractor trailers, sent 27 people to area hospitals and shut down a stretch of the highway for seven hours.

Some questioned the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission's decision to lift the speed restriction just more than two hours before the accidents.

The commission said its 45-mile-per-hour policy is set for current conditions and remains in place as long as snow and ice do.

Officials said restrictions are lifted only after maintenance crews report the area has been treated.

PennDOT said its operators evaluate road conditions and factor in forecasts to determine timing for speed restrictions, but some drivers said they think maybe the speed limits should be even lower.

"Maybe 35 miles per hour to make roadway safer for those going slow," Beth Brong said.

"It doesn't do any good if no one is stopping them on the road. If police aren't enforcing it, it's not effective," Alice Freeh explained.

The turnpike commission said it will hold a news conference later this week to address Friday's pileups. Speed reduction policies may also be addressed.  

PennDOT said it has no plans to change its policy.