The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is urging motorists to use extra caution during plowing and snow removal operations, as MnDOT snowplows have already been involved in crashes with the public this year.
“Our snowplow operators are seeing inattentive drivers, motorists driving too close to the plow and motorists driving too fast for conditions,” said Todd Stevens, acting state maintenance engineer. “These are the main causes of crashes with snowplows. Our drivers are well trained to drive their plows, but motorists should be patient, stay back from the plow and only pass when it is safe to do so.”
He said snowplows travel much slower than the posted speeds, because it is most effective for clearing roads. Operators’ ability to see behind them is restricted behind the truck, so they must rely on mirrors to see to the rear and side of the truck.
“Their vision is also hampered by the snow clouds created while they plow. So, the safest place you can be is well behind the snowplow and away from the snow cloud it creates,” said Stevens.
Last year in Minnesota, there were 84 crashes involving the public and snowplows. Of that total 58 of them occurred in the metro area.
“The more traffic there is, the higher the risk is of crashes occurring,” said Stevens.
Minnesota law requires motorists to turn on their headlights when it’s snowing or at any other time when weather conditions impair visibility.
What follows are some other recommendations for safe driving around snowplows:
• Stay alert for snowplows, which turn or exit frequently and often with little warning. They also may travel over centerlines or partially in traffic to further improve road conditions.
• Stay back at least 10 car lengths behind the plow. Don’t drive into a snow cloud.
• Slow down to a safe speed for current conditions.
• Turn on your headlights, and wear your seat belt.
• Turn off the cruise control.
• Be patient and remember that snowplows are working in an effort to improve road conditions for your trip.
• Don’t drive distracted.
Motorists should check road conditions at 511mn.org.
Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Transportation