Technology updates help riders in winter weather

BISMARCK, ND (KFYR) — Snow is coming later this week, but luckily for us there are many resources online to help us travel safely or keep an eye on friends and family who may be traveling.

Brandon Beise of the North Dakota Department of Transportation says this winter season, ND residents have a new way to stay safe and travel smart. Drivers can now get real-time street imagery, highway closures, and snowplow tracking.

“It’s cool because you can see where the trucks are. So if you know there’s a truck near you, expect it to be coming down your state highway in the near future, or maybe it’s just passed your mailbox,” said Brandon Beise, Bismarck NDDOT’s director of maintenance operations.

While NDDOT says these resources are helpful in keeping travelers safe, surprisingly not everyone knows about or uses these online features.

“I haven’t, but it sure would be handy. You know, my husband travels a lot for work and I’m always worried about the roads and I hope he’s careful. Maybe it’ll be a little better if two of us pay attention,” said a Bismarck resident.

About 150 snow plows currently have the tracking technology, but Beise says that in the future, ideally all 350 plows in North Dakota will have the feature. Being able to track where the plows have been is useful for driving safely across the state or even within a city.

“We’re definitely seeing spikes before, during and after storms, big storms like this one that’s in the forecast. And then, when we also have such larger motorway closures, the public definitely wants to know what the road conditions are like,” said Beise.

The NDDOT is constantly working on improving existing technologies as well as introducing new and improved functions. Roadside cameras provide new images every 5-10 minutes, allowing travelers to see road conditions, and new tracking technology is being tested on 10 Bismarck snowploughs.

“Now that I know I would definitely do that you know and I hope it’s easy to use and user friendly because I’m not always really good with computers but yeah that would be awesome” said a Bismarck resident.

For those who haven’t used the travel map and its resources, NDDOT has made navigation easier. The public can find it at travel.dot.nd.gov, or an app can be downloaded to a smartphone so travel updates are always at hand.

It is estimated that new and improved Bismarck snow plow tracking technology will be available for public use by the end of this year.

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