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Minnesota Department of Transportation to Use New Terms to Describe Winter Driving Conditions Starting This Winter

Nick Cooper – TSM Duluth

The quickly approaching 2014-2015 winter season will see new terms used by the Minnesota Department of Transportation to describe winter driving conditions. The new terms will offer a more descriptive concept of what to expect on winter road than the older, more subjective terms.

The old road conditions terms used by MnDOT were on a scale that went from “good” to “fair”, followed by “difficult” and then “hazardous/travel not advised”. The obvious problem is what one driver may view as “good” driving conditions, others may view as more degraded. After receiving complaints about the vague terms, the state’s transportation department has decided to shift to a new system that goes into place starting this season:


  • Dry or wet pavement. May include icy bridge decks.

Partially Covered

  • Ice, sleet/slush, snow or mixture of these causing the roadway to be partially covered (up to 50%)
  • Roadway may become slick, snow packed or rutted
  • Moderate blowing and drifting snow
  • Drivers may experience difficulty seeing road markings
  • Normal traffic speeds MAY be impacted due to visibility and precipitation

Completely Covered

  • Pavement completely covered (i.e. rain, frost, ice sleet/slush, snow or a mixture thereof)
  • Sleet/slush means pavement is 100% wet and may have slick spots or standing water
  • Snow accumulation completely obscures the pavement markings
  • Heavy snowfall, strong winds, ground drifting and freezing rain make travel difficult and hazardous.
  • Normal traffic speeds WILL be impacted due to reduced visibility

Travel Not Advised

  • Being on the road is dangerous
  • Ice covered roadways – near blizzard conditions
  • Visibility below 1/4 mile


  • Travel not allowed
  • Emergency vehicles only

MORE: The Polar Vortex is Expected to Return for the 2014-2015 Winter Season

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