Mo­torists re­call with dread the Su­per Bowl

Snow­plow

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - Ter­ence Mundt op­er­ates a snow­plow sim­u­la­tor dur­ing a train­ing class in Plano. lm otero / as­so­ci­ated PRESS B

ex­pen­sive prepa­ra­tions in an era of tight bud­gets.

The last mas­sive snow­storm in North Texas re­mains a black eye for lo­cal government. When more than 5 inches of snow fell in 2011, many high­ways went un­plowed, and thou­sands of foot­ball fans got stranded be­fore the big game. The toll author­ity was forced to use con­struc­tion road graders to clear im­pass­able roads.

“The Su­per Bowl that ev­ery­body talks about really opened our eyes,” Hem­phill said. “We had to put an­other tool in our tool­box.”

The toll author­ity spent about $84,000 on nine snow­plow blades that at­tach to the front of reg­u­lar dump trucks. Then it hired a sub­sidiary of New York-based L-3 Com­mu­ni­ca­tions to help with train­ing by putting on its snow­plow sim­u­la­tion.

The sim­u­la­tor has three video screens, a steer­ing wheel and a switch for the plow blade. Re­cently, a hand­ful of toll road drivers tried it out, trac­ing the curves of a vir­tual road de­signed to make them slip. Imag­i­nary deer ran out and al­most with­out ex­cep­tion got hit by drivers who weren’t able to avoid them. Each time, the word “COL­LI­SION” popped up in red let­ters.

On a re­cent sunny morn­ing with tem­per­a­tures in the 50s, San­ti­ago Per­alta got into the driver’s seat of one of the sim­u­la­tors. He turned the ig­ni­tion and pressed down on the gas, fol­low­ing a truck down a snowy road. As he pushed the ac­cel­er­a­tor, the ar­row of his on-screen speedome­ter moved far­ther to the right.

Then, with­out warn­ing, a child dashed onto the road. Per­alta wasn’t able to swerve in time. Later, he laughed, say­ing he had driven in snow be­fore and knew not to use the gas nearly that much.

“It’s a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent than the real deal,” he said.

The Texas De­part­ment of Pub­lic Safety also uses the sim­u­la­tor in its lo­cal district of­fices, as do some agen­cies in states with gen­er­ally mild win­ters such as Vir­ginia and Ken­tucky. It’s also used in Mary­land, Delaware, Mis­souri, Maine, Utah and Ore­gon, L-3 Se­nior Train­ing Man­ager Ge­orge Perez said.

“The dis­tricts swear by it and say it makes a lot of dif­fer­ence, es­pe­cially since most of our work­ers face snow and ice con­di­tions in­fre­quently,” Texas DPS spokes­woman Veron­ica Beyer said.

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