January 3, 2013

Winter Driving Tips When Meeting or Overtaking a Snowplow

By Debra Carney
Driver License Supervisor, Office of Driver Services
Davenport, Iowa

The winter of 2011 – 2012 went down on the books as one of the mildest winters in years. Will this winter be the same? It’s well known that weather related crashes will peak during the first part of poor driving conditions, but decrease as the winter wears on. That means we need to re-learn those winter driving skills each and every year.

When poor weather strikes, and we know it will, the following are a few tips for sharing the roadway with snowplows.

• When overtaking a snowplow, be aware that snowplows often travel only 5-35 mph. When you spot a snowplow ahead, slow down to allow for any difference in speed.
• Snowplows may need to stop or take evasive action to avoid stranded vehicles. Maintain a safe following distance and be prepared to stop, if necessary.
• Be cautious if you see an area of blowing snow – it could conceal a snowplow.
• If you must pass a snowplow, be sure that you have clear vision ahead before passing. Allow plenty of room when passing a snowplow, and don’t cut in too quickly. The blade extends several feet in front of the truck. On two lane roads, operators will pull over periodically to let following vehicles pass.
• On multi-lane roads, watch for plows operating in the left lane.
• Don’t travel beside a snowplow. When encountering a large drift or packed snow, the impact can move the truck sideways.
• Don’t attempt to pass a snowplow when visibility is severely reduced.
• Never pass a snowplow on the right. Many snowplows are equipped with a blade that expends to the right. This “wingblade” may be hidden by snow and difficult to see.
• Move as far away from the centerline of the pavement as you safely can when meeting a snow plow on a two-lane road.
• When two or more snowplows are working together to clear a multi-lane road, do not attempt to pass.