Knowing how to behave around snow removal equipment when you encounter it on the highway is important for both your safety and that of the equipment operator. These trucks must operate at optimum speeds to remove snow, drop sand and salt or apply brine. A bit of patience is required if this optimum is not what you consider appropriate for you.
Please keep in mind that during a winter event or during the storm clean up period, that snow plows require plenty of room to operate. You may see the snow plow but the snow plow operator has restricted vision and they may not be able to see you.
Snow removal equipment is exempt from the usual rules of the road if the operator exercises due care in the circumstances. Be cautious of unexpected behaviour!
Never pass a plow on the right, as this is typically the direction in which snow is being thrown. In addition, trucks are sometimes outfitted with extra wing plows that extend from the side of the truck, and these can be hidden in the cloud of snow that is being thrown.
Never tailgate a snow plow, as the operator may be required to come to a sudden stop if they detect an obstacle on the road ahead of them. Sudden turns may also be necessary.
When plows are operating in a group, be careful not to get caught between them. Having your car between two or more plows creates an unnecessary obstacle for them to watch for.
Passing a snow plow on the left is not recommended either. Large accumulations of snow can be thrown from any part of the truck, including the tires and undercarriage. If you must pass, use extreme caution and be aware of the snow cloud.
During sanding operations, the operators try their best to shut off their applicators when approaching traffic, though this is not always possible to do, as the application must be continuous on hills and on curves, as well as on any icy section of highway. When you see a sanding truck approaching, pull to the right as much as safely possible and slow your travel speed.
Please consider where you park your vehicle. If you choose a spot that interferes with snow removal, it could be towed away and stored at your expense.
Motorists should always be patient when traveling in winter conditions. Plow truck operators are working for the safety of yourself and your families. Their own safety is greatly compromised when motorists around them do not offer them enough respect.
Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement.