Snowplow simulator offers rare practice
DALLAS — In an area that gets a mere 3 inches of snow a year, Dallas snowplow drivers live in fear of major winter storms like the one that crippled their city almost two years ago, the week before it was to host the Super Bowl.
The drivers aren’t the only ones worried. So highway officials in at least nine states are using a sophisticated simulator to give plow drivers a chance to practice snow removal in any weather. It works like a video game, recreating slick pavement, poor visibility and even children or animals bolting across the road. In a virtual collision, drivers hear crashing noises and see a cracked windshield.
Because Dallas road crews don’t drive plows very often, “we have to practice a lot more,” said Eric Hemphill, maintenance director for the North Texas Toll Authority, which manages 850 miles of roads in and around Dallas and Fort Worth. “We don’t have that luxury — or that pressure.”
It’s almost an annual tradition for a few inches of snow to shut down warm-weather cities as winter-hardened Northerners laugh. Since snow comes so rarely, Dallas and other major Texas population centers can’t justify elaborate,