The road less salted

As the economy and the weather worsen, safety along Michigan roads is suffering something frightful

Driving in Michigan between November and April can often be treacherous; with the economic downturn and budget cuts, this winter is worse than ever.

Obviously the unpredictable, uncontrollable weather is the influencing factor in the condition of the roads. History gives us a good indication that it will indeed be snowy and icy in Michigan during these winter months.

When storms come out of nowhere and cover the roads, it is understandable that trucks are working hard and cannot possibly clear every road. However, when a huge storm is predicted a few days in advance and there are no salt trucks preparing the roads, then we have a problem.

Thanksgiving weekend I was listening to a sports talk-radio show out of Detroit and the DJ was going off about how I-75 was covered with three inches of snow and there were no plow or salt trucks in sight. He went on to say that he saw over a dozen cars off the road because of the conditions.
I understand that we are in a “recession” and money is not growing on trees anymore, but reducing the number of plow and salt trucks is absurd.

Drivers need to feel safe when driving to work or going to pick up their kids from school.

It is not like people can afford to stop driving. Work does not get cancelled the way school does. People still need to go to the bank, grocery store, post office, gas station and other necessary places.

It took my dad two hours to get to work one day because I-96 was completely covered. Part of that problem is also being stuck behind small cars that cannot handle the snow as well as his four-wheel drive truck. The other part is that plow trucks should have been clearing snow during the night and they obviously were not.

The safety of all drivers is being risked to save a few bucks. Is this really the best place to be cutting back? Icy and snowy roads take many lives each year even when they are salted and plowed. I do not want to even imagine what will happen if they continue to be plowed and salted less.

Every year, the state government makes a budget and there are always upset people because of the cuts made. There is no situation that would make every single person happy. I am not advocating that the state cut education or hospital funding or other vital spending areas; I am merely suggesting that safety be moved up a few rungs on the ladder and clearing roads be taken more seriously than it is being taken this year.

It is not like all spending on roads was cut. You still cannot drive anywhere in Michigan in the summer without running into construction at some point along the trip.

As the economy improves and fewer cuts have to be made, this problem will sort itself out. There is no exact way to measure how long that could take, however. If the economy continues to struggle over the next few years, I certainly hope for all our sakes that the roads get plowed and salted far more frequently than they have been this winter.