Motorists Encouraged to Take Steps for Safer Thanksgiving Winter Travel

Motorists Encouraged to Take Steps for Safer Thanksgiving, Winter Travel
New 511PA Tool Offered for Thanksgiving Travel Decisions

Harrisburg, PA –As Thanksgiving approaches, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Secretary Leslie S. Richards today urged drivers to take steps now for a safe holiday travel period and winter season.

Richards announced a new tool on that allows users to see how traffic speeds on the Wednesday before and Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2013 and 2014 compare to average traffic conditions.

“With Thanksgiving being one of the busiest travel periods during the year, it can be a challenge to decide when to begin your trip,” Richards said. “This page is one more way we’re putting as much information as possible into drivers’ hands so they can make informed travel decisions.”

The “Historic Holiday Traffic” page allows users to choose their region and view an hour-by-hour, color-coded visual of how traffic speeds on these travel periods compare to the average speed at the same time and day of week. The information is provided for roughly 2,900 highway miles as part of the data supplying the statewide speed data for 511PA.

In addition to planning for traffic impacts, Richards noted that vehicle preparation is key to safe travel.

“Snowflakes may not be falling right now, but now is the time to make sure drivers and their vehicles are ready for emergencies on our roadways,” Richards said at a media event today. “Taking these steps will help us all start the winter season on the right foot.”

With many motorists traveling Pennsylvania highways this holiday and to prepare for the months ahead, drivers should have their vehicle serviced by a mechanic they trust. A properly trained mechanic can check the cooling system, battery, hoses, drive belts, tires and wiper blades to ensure they are in good condition and functioning properly. Throughout the season, motorists should frequently check all fluid levels, lights and wiper blades.

Tires should also be checked often for the correct level of air pressure and adequate tire-tread depth to perform on ice and snow. A quick way to check tread depth is to insert a penny in the tread groove with Lincoln’s head upside down. If you can see the entire head, the tires are worn and traction will suffer. If you live in an area prone to heavy snow, drivers may want to consider using dedicated snow tires or carrying a set of tire chains. At a minimum, all-season tires should be rated for use in mud and snow.

“Once vehicles are travel-ready, drivers should be prepared for travel emergencies, whether weather or vehicle-related,” Richards said. “Especially if long-distance travel is planned, motorists should always carry an emergency kit.”

An emergency kit should include items such as non-perishable food, water, first-aid supplies, warm clothes, a blanket, cell phone charger and a small snow shovel. However, motorists should tailor their kits to any specific needs that they or their families may have. Consider adding such items as baby supplies, extra medication, pet supplies, or even children’s games.

“Weather and road conditions can quickly take a turn for the worse during winter months,” said Richard D. Flinn, Jr., director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. “Motorists should anticipate traffic delays and allow plenty of time to get where they’re going, and restock their emergency kit immediately after using items in it.”

Motorists can check conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles, including color-coded winter conditions on 2,900 miles, by visiting 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information, and access to more than 770 traffic cameras.

511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional Twitter alerts accessible on the 511PA website. The “Historic Holiday Traffic” player is currently only available on desktop computers or tablets that support Flash.

For more information on PennDOT’s winter preparations and additional winter-driving resources for motorists, visit the department’s winter Web page, The public can join the discussion on a safe holiday season using the hashtag #PASafeHoliday and find winter information with the #PAWinter hashtag.

Follow PennDOT on Twitter at or “like” the department on Facebook at

MEDIA CONTACT: Rich Kirkpatrick or Erin Waters-Trasatt, PennDOT, 717-783-8800
Ruth Miller, PEMA, 717-651-2009

Commissioners Reward 911 Employees

The Lackawanna County Commissioners know that our community is in good hands because of the quality assistance provided every day by the employees at the 911 Emergency Services Center, Jessup.

The Commissioners are rewarding the 911 employees who “answer the call” every day with an hourly rate increase along with the salary provision in the collective bargaining agreement.

All supervisors, dispatchers and new employees will receive a $2 per hour increase in addition to their contractually agreed upon increase.  This will take effect on January 1, 2016.

“We value all of our employees, especially those at 911.  And, we want to retain them as part of our excellent emergency services staff,” explained Commissioner Jim Wansacz.  “We found a way to reward them and to be competitive without impacting the County’s budget.  This helps us to be competitive with the other emergency services organizations.”

The rate adjustment also enabled the Commissioners to create a more competitive starting salary for attracting employees, while also retaining the valuable individuals that are working at 911.

The County has spent thousands of dollars training individuals, only to have them hired away by other organizations once they get experience.

The starting rate will go from $25,997 to $32,000.

The 911 annual salary increase is included in the 2016 budget.  The Commissioners were able to provide the additional hourly rate compensation due to the cost-savings in the 2015 budget.

Heroes Day Event To Honor Public Safety Personnel

Police officers, firefighters, military personnel, sheriffs, EMS workers, 911 dispatchers and other “blue” officials are truly “everyday heroes” in both our community and nationwide.

According to Lackawanna County Commissioners Jim Wansacz, Patrick M. O’Malley and Edward G. Staback, this year’s fifth annual Heroes Day is set for Saturday, September 19, from 11 am to 2 pm at the County’s 911 Center, Valley View Drive, Jessup.

The Scranton Police Department will be participating in the event and selling t-shirts with the proceeds benefitting the family of the late Officer John Wilding, who was fatally injured in the line of duty earlier this year.

At the event, safety, disaster, road and SWAT equipment from throughout the County will be on display along with booths for residents to pick-up literature that they can utilize when the need arises.

The day will include free refreshments, entertainment, giveaways, tours of the 911 Center, and children’s activities.  The event is being sponsored by the Commissioners, District Attorney’s Office, the Department of Emergency Services, Conxx, SkyPacket Networks, and Purosky & Tuckerman.

Jeff Thomas, a prevention specialist in the Lackawanna/Susquehanna Office of Drug & Alcohol Programs, will discuss the importance of proper medication disposal to safeguard the environment and to reduce the access of prescription drug abuse at 12:30 PM.

Canines and the Mounted Unit from the County’s Sheriff’s Department and the public safety units of area municipalities will be at the event.  Valuable information on County services and the programs offered by area community and social agencies will also be available.

Several antique emergency vehicles will also be a part of the program along with a variety of children’s activities.

The following organizations, along with their equipment, will be in attendance:  Tanker 15 from Elmhurst/Roaring Brook, Command 93 from Old Forge, Moscow’s Rescue 7, the Peckville Smoke House and Ladder 20, Unimog 24 from Greenfield Township, Engine 5 from Dalton, the Pennsylvania State Police, Decon Team, Commonwealth Health Ambulance, and Pennsylvania Ambulance.

The County’s DARE Program and SWAT Team will be on site along with the 911 Mobile Command Post and EMA vehicles, COLTS, the Bookmobile, and the following County Departments: Voter Registration, Parks & Recreation, Veterans Affairs, Community Relations, Drug & Alcohol Office, Highway Safety Program, the IT Department’s Wireless initiative, Environmental Sustainability Office, Area Agency on Aging, Roads and Bridges, and the Coroner’s Office.

The Pennsylvania National Guard, Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority, and Wills For Heroes will also be at the event.

The Penn State Extension will have displays featuring the Master Gardeners and 4-H programs along with its mini golf course.

For further information, contact Gerard Hetman, the County’s Community Relations Coordinator, at 570-963-6743, ext. 1872.