Keeping drivers safe on Saskatchewan highways
Alesha Nelson is no stranger to helping people get to their destination safely.
“In my last job I worked at a hotel just off Highway 1, and people would ask what the road conditions were like,” she says. “We’d check the Highway Hotline website often and sometimes even print out the conditions … and keep them on our desk to look at.”
Two months into her first season as a Highway Hotline operator, Alesha admits “Personally I’ve used it too, if I’ve headed off somewhere travelling in the past.”
She’s not alone. Drivers used the Highway Hotline service more than 3.5 million times last winter, checking for the latest reports on dangerous winter driving conditions such as icy or slippery sections, reduced visibility, and all forms of snow-related issues, like packed, drifting, loose, and swirling snow.
“Our equipment operators are the big anchor – they go out and check the highways and fix them up – but we at the Highway Hotline are important too,” Alesha says. “We make sure the Hotline website and phone system stay up to date so people can plan safe travels.”
Alesha constantly checks emails and answers phone calls to keep the service up to date with the latest road conditions. She reveals there are 15 district offices across the province that keep the Highway Hotline updated, with highway crews reporting in directly during nights and weekends.
Life goes on in the prairies
The frigid cold, whipping winds, and heavy snowfall of winter can wreak havoc on Saskatchewan’s 26,000 roads, so the Hotline operators keep an eye on the weather.
“We get reports from Environment Canada if there are any weather emergencies, or any alerts about incoming storms,” Alesha says.
“We keep an eye on the weather if there’s going to be any extreme events so we can predict how busy it will be at a given time.”
Planning for the road ahead
Alesha says that even with the best of planning, people will still have to drive according to the conditions they observe when out on the road.
“Even if you’re looking online and it says the conditions are good for now, the weather can change very quickly. Pay attention, slow down if the roads are getting bad and if you can, pull over and check the online website or give us a call to see if anything’s changed.”
“I know the snowplows are out there too so you have to give them space.”
Alesha takes great pride in keeping drivers informed and safe on Saskatchewan highways. “I love it here, it’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had,” she smiles.