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Snow banks add to winter driving danger

Snow banks add to winter driving danger

With snowbanks reaching higher and higher along city streets, police say drivers should use extra ca
Snow banks add to winter driving danger
Schenectady DPW crews remove snow from the banks along Washington Ave. at Union St. on Wednesday afternoon.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

With snowbanks reaching higher and higher along city streets, police say drivers should use extra caution when pulling out of driveways and side streets where visibility has become limited.

“There’s quite a few fender-benders out there,” said Lt. Robert Jillson of the Saratoga Springs Police Department. “It’s that time of year.”

Jillson and other area police officers say most snow-related accidents are due to the driver’s failure to brake early enough in slick conditions, but that limited sight when pulling out into traffic is certainly a concern.

The Capital Region has received more than 20 inches of snow so far in February, well above the average of 12 inches for the month, and a total of more than 60 inches so far this winter season, according to the National Weather Service in Albany.

With two significant storms in the past two weeks, snow banks are piling up faster than municipal crews can remove them.

“I think at this point, the people are frustrated,” said Ray Halgas, general foreman of the Amsterdam Department of Public Works. “So much snow in a short period of time, no place to put it. … People are piling the snow between the curb and the sidewalk around someone’s driveway, so a car goes to pull out, he can’t see pulling out of that driveway.”

Many municipalities have begun clean-up efforts this week, using loaders, giant snow blowers and dump trucks to haul the snow off narrow streets to designated dump areas. In Amsterdam, Halgas said the city has three such areas that they’ll begin moving snow to on Thursday.

In the meantime, police urge drivers to practice patience.

“Give yourself some extra time and go a little bit slower,” said Jillson. “Just exercise a little more due care, make sure you get there safely, because with the limited view you have to encroach out more into intersections to take a peek to see what’s there. So you just have to take more time.”

In Schenectady, police Lt. Mark McCracken said they’ve seen an increase in auto accidents due to the snow, but nothing as of Tuesday that was attributed to high snow banks. The city started amping up its snow removal this week, he said, which should “lessen the danger factors.”

He noted that residents are prohibited from shoveling snow into the streets, so options are limited for residents and business owners confronting towering snow banks.

“Certainly, if they can keep the mounds to a minimum, that’s great,” he said. “But nobody’s going out there with a tape measure.”

Jillson made a similar recommendation in Saratoga Springs, asking residents and business owners with tall snow banks in high-traffic areas to “do your best” to keep them low.

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