Speed the plow

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - This ed­i­to­rial orig­i­nally ap­peared in The Tele­gram

In the in­ter­est of stay­ing with the KISS prin­ci­ple (Keep It Sim­ple, Stupid), we of­fer this primer on win­ter. Clouds come: snow falls. Snow falls on road: road slip­pery and dan­ger­ous. Plows and crews are avail­able. Plows clear and salt road: road meets stan­dards of ba­sic safety. Peo­ple get where they are go­ing safely. If only it was that sim­ple. Right now, a snow­storm doesn’t go by in this prov­ince with­out har­row­ing sto­ries of how hor­ren­dous the roads are — am­bu­lance op­er­a­tors air­ing con­cerns about safety, reg­u­lar po­lice re­ports about cars off the road, driv­ers un­able to com­plete their trav­els.

The gen­eral pub­lic isn’t com­pletely blame­less here. Any­one who drives the prov­ince’s high­ways reg­u­lar knows that there is a bla­tant dis­re­gard shown for road con­di­tions, es­pe­cially for snow and ice. Driv­ers seem un­pre­pared for any­thing like a change in con­di­tions and reg­u­larly drive faster than con­di­tions per­mit.

That be­ing said, there are some ba­sic sit­u­a­tions that the pub­lic should be able to ex­pect. First, that when bad weather con­di­tions are fore­cast, agen­cies re­spon­si­ble for snow­clear­ing should at least be ready and wait­ing to pro­vide a ser­vice. If there’s a 90 per cent chance of snow, crews shouldn’t be wait­ing for a su­per­vi­sor to de­ter­mine that, “yes, that is ac­tu­ally snow fall­ing and we should make the call.”

A stitch in time, per­haps, saves nine cars off the road.

It’s down­right com­i­cal that pri­vate op­er­a­tors can be ready and wait­ing for snow on pri­vate park­ing lots, while city and provin­cial plows seem to be hope­lessly taken by sur­prise when­ever snow starts.

Sec­ond, and per­haps more im­por­tantly, when we’re in the midst of the win­ter sea­son, snow­clear­ing equip­ment should be in good re­pair and road­wor­thy.

Tuesday, a re­port in this news­pa­per out­lined how, at two of the prov­ince’s largest high­ways de­pots, a Mon­day storm saw only 56 per cent of snow­clear­ing equip­ment in good enough re­pair to hit the road.

At the Fox­trap de­pot, there have been days when as lit­tle as 22 per cent of equip­ment was ready and able to plow roads. At the Dono­vans de­pot, at one point, only one-third of the avail­able equip­ment was road­wor­thy. On top of that, there have been per­sis­tent short­ages of me­chan­ics to re­pair the equip­ment.

Driv­ers can’t make sen­si­ble de­ci­sions about how and when to travel if the stan­dards for high­way and se­condary road snow­clear­ing aren’t con­sis­tent. By its very na­ture, hav­ing large num­bers of plows out of com­mis­sion means that driv­ers can’t make rea­son­able choices, be­cause there’s no way to be as­sured of whether provin­cial plows will even meet their own ba­sic stan­dards.

As the high­ways depart­ment likes to tell us, “Snow means slow.” They are right. But more than that: maybe we could add, “Snow means plow”?

And to get back to the KISS prin­ci­ple? Plow bro­ken? Fix plow.

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