Post-Storm Snow Banks Make for Driving Hazzards

Photo: The passenger side door is damaged in an accident at intersection of Lincoln and South Street. (Photo by Jarod Farn-Guillette).



By Jarod Farn-Guillette


 Winter storm Orson's initial 20-inch dump, followed by the second and third heavy snow falls resulting in upwards of 60 inches accumulating in the area, created more problems than just continuous snow clearing for residents and transportation crews. A serious impact that is sure to remain until the spring melt is decreased visibility at intersections and driveways due to, at some places, over ten foot high snow banks and piles. This serious traffic hazard is most likely to lead to an accident at uncontrolled intersections where cars are entering into traffic. Other potential accidents that can occur are when pedestrians or children playing are attempting to cross the street or just leaving their own driveways and oncoming cars, traveling at unsafe speeds, do not have enough time to brake, even in the best of conditions, but now on the slippery snow-packed roads. In an era when many cars have advanced safety features and stability control for winter driving, motorists are still urged to use common sense, reduce speeds and increase awareness of their surroundings. This is especially important near places with high pedestrian traffic and children playing, such as the elementary school, near parks or downtown. 

On February 15, 2017 one such accident occurred at the intersection of Lincoln and South Street around 5:00 p.m. Emergency services responded when a passenger car attempting to turn left onto South Street, but due to the high snow banks, was unable to see the oncoming pick-up truck resulting in a collision, striking the car on the passenger side door. The vehicle then spun 180 degrees striking an oncoming vehicle. It finally stopped when it landed in a snowbank on the front lawn of the house at the intersection where the accident occurred. According the police report the driver of the passenger car involved in the accident was taken to nearby Calais Hospital for pain in her head and neck. No further information was provided. 

Though in-town speed limits are posted at 25 mph, the Maine Department of Transportation advises driving slower than the regular speed limit and allowing extra time for stopping in winter conditions [1]. Other reports also clearly state the increased safety features in cars leads to drivers taking more risks and driving less safe for road conditions with the increased sense of security, a false sense [2]. The National Safety Council reports that over 40,000 Americans died from traffic accidents last year, a six percent increase since 2015 and a fourteen percent increase since 2014. According to an NSC survey an alarming amount of drivers ironically state driving safety is a concern yet report being comfortable speeding, texting while driving and operating under the influence of marijuana and alcohol [3].  At a time when visibility is reduced, road conditions are variable and the Maine weather unpredictable, drivers should use extra caution and not assume that they are safe behind the wheel, cushioned with multiple airbags. At best an increased insurance bill, worst the full force of 3000 lbs smashing into a 3 foot tall frame, even at 25 mph, can be deadly. 



2. Martinelli, David and Maria-Paulina Diosdado-De-La-Pena (2008). Safety Externalities of SUVs on Passenger Cars: An Analysis Of the Peltzman Effect Using FARS Data