There have been more than 25 crashes statewide so far this winter involving vehicles and state snowplows, including several in Southeast Minnesota. With winter far from over, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is urging motorists to renew their safe driving efforts and use extra caution during plowing and snow removal operations.
In January, motorists hit four snowplows in Southeast Minnesota on state highways. Additionally, in December there were three work zone crashes involving MnDOT crews in Southeast Minnesota. Last year in Minnesota, there were 84 crashes statewide involving vehicles and MnDOT snowplows.
“The main causes of these crashes are motorists driving too fast for conditions, driving too close to the plow and driver inattention,” said Todd Stevens, acting state maintenance engineer. “Our snowplow drivers are well-trained to operate their plows, which often travel much slower than the posted speeds because it is most effective for clearing roads. For safety’s sake, motorists need to be patient and stay back from the plow.”
Stevens said that operators have a restricted view from the plow cab, 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 they create while they plow.
“The safest place you can be is well behind the snowplow and away from the snow cloud it creates,” he said. “The road is clear behind the plow but not necessarily in front of it, so in most cases it makes sense to travel behind the plow.”
A number of crashes have occurred when vehicles drove blindly into snow clouds and struck the snowplow from behind. Some of the crashes have been in the left lane on four-lane highways. It’s a reminder that the snowplows will be working in both lanes to clear the lanes. Minnesota law requires motorists to turn on their headlights when it’s snowing or at any other time when weather conditions impair visibility.
Other recommendations for safe driving around snowplows include:
• 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 seatbelt.
• Turn off the cruise control.
• Be patient and remember snowplows are working to improve road conditions for your trip.
• Don’t drive distracted.
Motorists should check road conditions at 511mn.org.