Media & Public Relations

Contact: Carl DeFebo
Phone: 717-920-7176
January 06, 2011

Pa. Turnpike Urges Travelers to Heed Important Driving Advice This Winter

Drivers reminded use cautions in bad weather; consider alternatives to travel if needed.

HARRISBURG, PA (01/06/2011)(readMedia)-- With some amount of snowfall expected to blanket much of the state beginning today through the weekend, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) offers motorists some potentially lifesaving advice regarding wintertime travel on the state's 545-mile toll-road system.

"The PTC has a reputation of providing unparalleled winter maintenance - keeping the roadway free of snow and ice no matter what it takes," said Director of Maintenance Todd Garrison. "But sometimes, the weather becomes so severe that no human endeavor can challenge it, and drivers should remember that snowplows and deicing materials can't always win against a tough opponent like Mother Nature."

The most important winter-driving recommendation: When the weather outside looks questionable, always call or go online to find out what's happening on the Turnpike before you venture out. Then, if roadway conditions warrant, seriously reconsider travel plans.

"If you're unsure about driving during a snowstorm or other weather-related emergency, then don't," said Cpl. Rick Dean of Pa. State Police Troop T, the unit in charge of Turnpike patrols. "Ask yourself, 'is this trip so important that it's worth risking my own safety and the safety of those traveling with me?' If the answer is no, then stay home."

In bad weather, Cpl. Dean encourages would-be motorists to consider alternatives to highway travel, such as telecommuting, mass transit or car-pooling.

"If you absolutely must drive, recognize that getting there in bad weather will take longer - perhaps significantly longer - than on dry roads," he said. "Make allowances so you can take your time and get there safely."

What's happening on the Pa. Turnpike?

The best way to check Turnpike conditions is the Turnpike Roadway Information Program, or "TRIP." TRIP uses live data and video feeds from the Traffic Operations Center together with on-scene reports from roadway crews, police and emergency responders and rapidly delivers alerts via an Interactive Travel Map, service-plaza message boards, a toll-free call-in advisory system and the "Preferred Traveler" e-mail and text-message system.

  • Web Map - The Interactive Travel Map ( delivers a quick, easy view of conditions across the entire Turnpike system; it features live web cams, at-a-glance traffic flow status, weather conditions, audio travel advisories and more.
  • Message Boards - The Turnpike's moving, traffic-alert scroll appears across the top of our home page ( and on the electronic message boards inside Pa. Turnpike service plazas, keeping motorists informed about what's happening on the road.
  • Travel & Toll-Rate Hotline - Hear up-to-date travel information or calculate the toll charge for your trip by calling 866.976.TRIP (or 866.976.8747). This toll-free number gives audio advisories for the region in which you are traveling, including delays and closures due to construction, accidents or weather. Please use the TRIP line responsibly and avoid distractions while driving.
  • Preferred Traveler - Become a Preferred Traveler to receive route-specific traffic, weather and construction alerts via e-mail or text. Get alerts only for the part of the Turnpike you drive regularly. You decide the days and hours that messages are sent when you set up a free Preferred Traveler account at

If you do make the decision to hit the road after checking conditions, please remember to buckle up and slow down.

"Driving in winter weather oftentimes requires reducing your speed to below the posted limit, even if you're driving an SUV," Cpl. Dean said. "And always remember to turn on your headlights so that you can see and be seen; state law requires headlight use whenever windshield wipers are on."

Another rule of thumb: Never pass or tailgate a snowplow, salt truck or plow train on the Turnpike.

"Keep in mind, the roadway ahead of our maintenance vehicles is most likely snow covered or icy, so you're better off behind plows than in front of them," said Maintenance Director Garrison. "Also, leave plenty of room between your vehicle and the plows because the powdery snow kicked up by the plowing can obstruct visibility if you're too close."

In Case of Emergency, Dial 'Star Eleven'

In case of an accident, breakdown or medical emergency, motorists should dial *11 (or 1-800-332-3880) to receive aid on the Pa. Turnpike. This call puts you in direct contact with a Traffic Operations Center dispatcher.

When you call, be prepared to give your milepost location and direction of travel (i.e., eastbound or westbound). In the event of a minor accident, make sure the vehicle is moved out of the active travel lanes and all people are kept away from moving traffic. Secondary crashes are often caused by traffic approaching an accident scene.

As an alternative, you can also utilize the yellow emergency call boxes located on the shoulder at one-mile intervals to get help.