Sheriff's spokesman: Driving under Level 3 is between you and your boss

Woman's employer penalized her for calling off work during Level 3 driving conditions.
Cary Ashby
Feb 5, 2014

Imagine being home and you're ready to work.

And then the Huron County Sheriff's Office issues a Level 3 weather emergency.

That means the roads are treacherous and only vehicles for "emergency facility personnel" should be on the road. Those include physicians, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, physician's assistants, health-care workers, clerical staffs and any individual who is a security officer performing security services in an emergency facility.

Twice in January, Huron County Sheriff Dane Howard issued a Level 3.

But, despite the dangerous driving conditions, you're supposed to go to work -- that's the dilemma David A. Piontkowski's mother faced recently.

"Huron County was at a Level 3 for the better part of the day. If I am not mistaken, a Level 3 dictates emergency traffic only. Citizens are subject to a fine if caught driving during said conditions," Piontkowski told the Reflector.

The driver of a vehicle found on the roadways during a Level 3 could be charged with "misconduct at emergency."

"With this being said, my mother was forced to call off from her job. Following the law, she stayed home. Present day, her employer penalized her for calling off," Piontkowski said.

"When did work take top billing over the law? It is a union shop, but the fact that a grievance has to be placed is ridiculous. Is the dollar more important than life? I will let you decide that one," he said.

Chief Deputy Ted Patrick offered an explanation Thursday for what people should do when they're supposed to drive to work while a Level 3 is in effect.

"We want people to contact their employer," Patrick said.

When it comes to reporting to work, "that's between them and their employer," he said. "The employee needs to contact their employer and find out about the ramifications of not reporting (to work)."

The sheriff's spokesman stressed that issuing a Level 3 is about keeping Huron County residents safe.

"On a Level 3, we want them to get off the road ... and not getting stranded," he said. "The roads are really treacherous and (people) shouldn't be out on the road.

"We're not actively looking for people who are driving under Level 3. On the other hand, if they go in a ditch or are in an accident and they're at fault, they will get cited," he said.

Drivers, in those circumstances, could be charged with "failure to control" or "failure to maintain assured clear distance."

Since taking office in 2009, Howard has issued a Level 3 weather emergency only twice. Both of those incidents happened within weeks of each other -- Jan. 6 and again Jan. 25.

The first Level 3 was issued starting at noon Jan. 6.

Howard, at the time, said it was "the prudent thing to do," given the hazardous weather and road conditions. By issuing it at noon, the sheriff said it gave time for residents to travel home safely before dark.

The Level 3 on Jan. 6 wasn't due to snow -- it was the temperature and the accompanying danger.

"The temperatures being displayed are an extreme hazard to our citizens and emergency services personnel," Howard said at the time.

Wind gusts reached about 40 mph. With the wind chill, the temperature was as low as 40 below zero.

"It wasn't so much about the snow as it was about someone being out when they didn't need to be out driving, their vehicle breaking down and being separated from their vehicle," Patrick said.

The National Weather Service advised the sheriff's office that in those temperatures, someone who was exposed to the elements could get frostbite in 10 minutes.

"That was a major concern," Patrick said.

On Jan. 25, there were high snow drifts on Old State and Boughtonville roads. Ohio 162 was drifted completely shut until crews from the Ohio Department of Transportation plowed the road.

Before issuing a Level 3, the sheriff's office gets feedback from the ODOT and Huron County Highway Department.

"But ultimately, it's up to the sheriff's office," Patrick said.

"For us to issue a Level 3 is a rare instance. But this has been a rare winter," he added.

"Hopefully we won't have to do it again. We're going to do what's in the best interest of our citizens. ... We will do what we need to do to keep our citizens safe," Patrick said.

Comments

Contango

When did Northern Ohioans become such drama queens?

Put some extra warm winter clothes in the back seat, some snacks, make sure that you have plenty of gas and go to work.

If you can't handle winter in N. Ohio - move.

Snoozer

Some of us have to drive to work to make a living contago!
I guess you dont have to drive to get your welfare check do you?
If you did then you would understand what the topic was about!
Just how you wrote "Put some extra warm winter clothes in the back seat, some snacks, make sure that you have plenty of gas and go to work" Just proves you don"t work for a living!

Contango

Re: "Put some extra warm winter clothes in the back seat, some snacks, make sure that you have plenty of gas and go to work"

YEP! I've done it on numerous occasions. YOU?

Or do you sit home and play 'drama queen'?

No gubbermint goodies here Sport.

inquiringmind

Since this is a union shop, maybe the next time the contract comes up, you should negotiate something into the contract that if you go to work under a level three, the company has to pay the fine or the company must provide transportation. Also, maybe the sheriff's office can make an exception for vehicles with four wheel drive.

ladydye_5

4wheel drive is not the end all be all. That just means ALL 4 wheels spin. On ice it does NOTHING to save your butt. If you are stuck in a snow drift it does not help. If you are upside down in a field...yep you guessed it all 4 wheels are still spinning. I see more people (and yes WOMEN) in their SUV and their crossovers with AWD thinking they are invincible. Well guess what....a little further down the road, they are in the ditch. I watched a lady get stuck in the exit at Meijer in Perrysburg. In her fancy high dollar, nose in the air, on the phone, all wheel drive, I can do anything, crossover. Sitting there STUCK. 2 foot of snow, where the state had plowed the snow, ice, mud, and everything else. Her AWD was doing her NO good. All 4 tires were spinning. Wheel wells packed full. Not everyone knows how to drive in snow. Does not matter what kind of vehicle you have.

Kilroy

Sounds like she needs a Jeep.

starryeyes83

I've seen Jeeps get stuck.

ladydye_5

Jeeps get stuck just like everything else.

inquiringmind

I am not stupid ladydye. I understand that 4 wheel drive is not the be all and end all of bad weather. I DO understand that it is better than a small car. My husband and many of my friends have big 4X4 trucks. I do not. When I want to go someplace in this weather, I get a ride. You sound very angry about my comment. Get a grip!

ladydye_5

Your comment did make me angry. Those of us that do not OWN a 4x4 hillbilly truck would be stuck at home while you that own one would be allowed out on the road? How fair is that? DUH? How can the sheriff pick and choose which vehicles would be allowed the road? Oh you have a front wheel drive, nope. Oh, you have a truck with only rear wheel drive, nope. How about you, You, have a MINI VAN with AWD...sure go ahead and drive your toddlers and babies to the MALL! Get a grip!

inquiringmind

I also think things should be "fair". Is it fair that I have to pay for someone to sit and home and collect my money? Is it fair that I have to pay for medical insurance and others don't? Is it fair if I get a ticket for speeding and the guy who just passed me didn't? NOPE! As I have been told many times, LIFE IS NOT FAIR. You can get as angry as you want. It was a suggestion, I don't make the laws. And personally, I take the "hillbilly" remark as a racist comment. Like I said, Get a grip!

J Cooper

In very rare case are you cited for violation of a level three and if you are its misconduct during an emergency with the law's enforcement power standing only on one AG opinion. Might be an easy law to challenge in the courts considering the government is attempting to restrict free movement utilizing one law to enforce the directions of the sheriff and his opinion on the condition of the roadways. My guess that's why its not enforced. That being said don't expect a warning if you are involved in a traffic crash, you will be cited for the cause of the crash or to be a priority for assistance if you become stuck or stranded.

Wormy1975

Sounds to me like the Sheriff is being evasive on the answer so he doesnt get any companies mad

Snoozer

It was definatelly a level 3 tuesday nite and im sure the sheriff and companies knew it! Like always someone has to die before changes are made!
Roads were drifting closed. if the schools have to close for weather why not employers?
How can anyone live with with themselves for putting their fellow citizens at risk? Oh just make it a level 2 and my conscious will be at ease! the guilt won"t wont be as bad...

Contango

Re: "if the schools have to close for weather why not employers?"

Typical bleeding heart, make it someone else's problem liberal.

It's Feb. It snows - getoverit.

(Edited)

methodman

Yeh cupcake.

Snoozer

@Contaco its february! I guess they don"t give out the welfare check on the 1st of the month anymore?

Contango

Regardless Pork Chop; answer the questions:

"YEP! I've done it on numerous occasions. YOU?

Or do you sit home and play 'drama queen'?"

benedict

Exactly Wormy1975 We probably won't see any more level 3's now. Causes to many problems for company's trying to operate. Company's probably paid the sheriff off..ha

KeithStone

This is the text sent out by the Sheriff's Dept.

S: Level 3 Snow Emergency
All roadways in Huron County Ohio are closed to non-emergency personnel. No one should be driving during these conditions unless it is absolutely necessary to travel or a personal emergency exists. All employees should contact their employer to see if they should report to work. Those traveling on the roads may subject themselves to arrest. Please contact the Huron County Sheriff's Office at 419-663-2828 with any questions. To confirm: reply with 'YES' and send.

If they were going to cite you for traveling to work they would not tell you to contact your employer to see if you are to report to work.

starryeyes83

" Level 3 means we want everyone off the roads...we don't want people stranded".. Okay, fine you tell people that who have a point system in place at their work. Union shop or non - union .. Bottom Line is the companies don't care about their employees safety. They are just a number.

When did Ohio get to be such wimps?? ... Good question. Here are some thoughts:

* When drivers started to worry more about how fast and furious they can drive ignoring safety rules.

* Crowding the snow plows.

* Yapping on cells phones, texting, trying to operate a laptop on their passenger seat. Applying make up or trying to eat. In other words trying to do everything else EXCEPT control that BiG A$$ 3,000 pound vehicle ( death machine )you are operating.

*Ignoring all winter driving skills or having NONE to begin with. Same goes with common sense and courtesy.

** And finally probably when the death tolls started to go up in recent years.

That said - SLOW DOWN, Hang up the damn phone, eyes front and drive it like it's on eggshells. As me and others have pointed out those 4 wheel drives are fine in the right conditions with the proper skills BUT they won't save your ass on black ice, or in a drift or ditch. Don't be too damn cocky.

P.S. Cell phones are great BUT Universal Law will probably EFF with you on that, too. Batteries die, Signals get lost etc etc..

Too much reliance on high tech stuff is NOT a good thing. Learn old school ways to boot.

Just in case.

Class Dismissed.

doNOTlistenHEAR

I have seen more retardation displayed in this comment section than any other.! I mean come on act like the people you pretend to be in public. You are encouraging the youth to be A holes like you

thirtysomething

I think the real question is this... Are you willing to take the day off without pay. If employers closed shop every time the schools did, I'd be broke!

Gdusty86

Level 3 means stay off the roads ,your boss should understand this .

Dr. Information

If your employer is working, then you have to report. Bottom line. They won't arrest you for going to work. If you don't feel its safe for you, use a vacation day. Pretty simple.