Delaware OKs driving ban during emergencies

| 8/20/2010

Snowstorms that make travel in Delaware a hairy ordeal could result in hefty fines for truckers and other drivers who white-knuckle their way along roadways.

Gov. Jack Markell has signed into law a bill that creates a three-tier system. It is intended to curb drivers when heavy snow falls in the state. Previously SB306, the new law takes effect Oct. 30.

Pursuit of the law during this year’s legislative session was prompted after a significant snowfall in February. Despite a driving ban issued by the governor, many people took to the roads. Hundreds of vehicles were scattered along roadsides throughout the state after defying the travel ban. Until now, Delaware law limited punishment options to jail time.

Truck driver and OOIDA Member Dennis Glass of Harrington, DE, was on his way home at the time of that snowstorm. He recently told Land Line that he witnessed the folly of motorists trying to get around in the mounting snow. Glass said he welcomes a law to address the issue.

“What I experienced here – people here just do not know how to drive in snow,” he said.

Glass said that while professional drivers are the best equipped to handle tough driving conditions, he is glad to see that the bill helps ensure that truckers won’t be forced to head down the road.

The first tier of the new law simply discourages driving, but there won’t be a ban on heading down the road. No fines could be doled out for traveling through the wintry precipitation.

The next level puts in place a “driving restriction.” Driving would be prohibited except for essential personnel: snowplow operators, those necessary to maintain the core functions of government, health care workers and “those providing food and fuel.”

Policy will be established by the Secretary of Safety and Homeland Security to determine other businesses to obtain waivers.

The final tier would be an all-out driving ban. Only essential personnel, such as first responders and snowplow operators, would be allowed to brave roadways.

Offenders of the second and third tiers would face up to $115 fines. Repeat offenders would need to pay up to $200 with the possibility of spending between 10 and 30 days in the clink.

Employers are forbidden from “any adverse employment action against an employee” who is refusing to violate the law and who hasn’t been given a waiver.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Delaware, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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