ALBANY, NY (12/14/2013)(readMedia)-- The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) is advising motorists to drive with extreme caution and avoid unnecessary travel as a strong winter storm develops over most of the state today. Moderate to heavy snow is expected in many areas starting this afternoon and continuing into early Sunday morning.

Statewide, NYSDOT will have more than 3,800 trained operators and supervisors available for snow removal, along with a fleet of 1,457 plows and 308 bucket loaders, which are used for loading salt into snowplow trucks.

Plow trucks removing snow and spreading salt cover 20 to 35-mile beats in 1.5 to 2.5 hour cycles. Plow drivers will continue removing snow and ice after a storm ends until the roads are completely clear, but as snow is falling motorists should expect to see snow and slush on the roads. The amount of snow that accumulates on the highway depends on the rate of snow fall and severity of the storm. NYSDOT's goal is to provide highways that are passable, but the traveling public must exercise caution and drive appropriately for the conditions.

Snowplows travel at speeds up to 35 miles per hour - which in many cases is lower than the posted speed limit - in order to ensure that salt being dispersed stays in the driving lanes and does not scatter off the roadways. Oftentimes on interstate highways, snowplows will operate side by side; this is the most efficient and safe way to clear several lanes at one time.

Motorists and pedestrians should never assume a snowplow driver can see them. Snowplow drivers have limited sight distances, with the wing blades of the plow obscuring their side views. The size and weight of snowplows make it very difficult to maneuver and stop quickly. Snow blowing from behind a plow can severely reduce visibility or cause "whiteout" conditions. Motorists should not attempt to pass snowplows or follow too closely. The safest place for motorists is well behind snowplows, where the roadway is clear and salted.

Some of the most important tips for safe winter driving include:

• Never follow a snowplow too closely or attempt to pass one. Remember that the highway ahead of the plow is usually snow-covered;

• Adjust speed for road conditions and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles;

• Schedule extra time for winter travel and be patient during ice and snow removal operations;

• Assume that bridge surfaces are slippery, as they freeze more quickly than road surfaces;

• Be wary of black ice, which can be difficult to see, but makes conditions slippery when pavement temperatures are below freezing;

• Have a cell phone handy, if possible, but do not text while driving; distracted driving is illegal and becomes even more dangerous during storm events;

• Never venture from your vehicle if snowbound;

• Equip your car with emergency supplies including sand, shovel, flares, booster cables, rope, ice scraper, portable radio, flashlight, blankets and extra warm clothes;

• Inform a responsible person of your destination, intended route, and estimated time of arrival; and

• Keep calm and do not panic in case of a vehicle breakdown, accident, or if you become snowbound.

On occasion, winter storms can cause power outages at intersections, causing traffic signals to fail. At intersections where traffic control signals are not working, state Vehicle and Traffic Law directs motorists to proceed as they would at a stop sign, unless otherwise directed by a police officer on site.

NYSDOT provides a travel advisory system that features real-time travel reports and can be accessed by phone at 511 or online at www.511ny.org. The Web site features a color-coded map indicating which state roads are snow covered, ice covered, wet, dry, or closed to help travelers determine if travel is advisable. The system provides real-time snow and ice conditions for interstates and other heavily traveled roads, as reported by snowplow operators.