A private snowplow pushes snow into a state highway, causing a public plow to crash and roll over, injuring the driver. Meanwhile, in another area a motorist disregards winter conditions, traveling too fast and crashes into the rear of a Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) plow, disabling it.
Those are just two cases of hazardous actions in winter resulting in crashes earlier this month in Michigan, and in both cases taking two winter maintenance vehicles out of commission.
“Slippery roads, reduced visibility, and excessive speeds greatly reduce the margin of error in winter driving,” said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. “We implore private plow operators and motorists to be extra cautious, and avoid doing anything that adds to the hazards of winter driving or roadway maintenance.”
Two main concerns are when residents and businesses pile snow at the ends of driveways along the highway shoulder, and when snow is pushed across the road, leaving snow or slush on the road surface.
The Michigan Vehicle Code prohibits depositing “snow, ice, or slush on any roadway or highway,” and “the obstruction of safety vision by removal or deposit of snow, ice, or slush.” This includes the end of driveways, where banked snow can reduce visibility for vehicles trying to enter the roadway. Leaving a trail of snow on the pavement while plowing across the road also can create an added hazard to unsuspecting motorists and to road maintenance personnel.
Motorists also should be particularly careful around winter maintenance snowplows and salt trucks. These large, powerful vehicles may be traveling at slower speeds than vehicles around them, and may be obscured by blowing snow.
“For your safety and the safety of our operators, it’s important to give snowplows a buffer to do their work,” Steudle said.
Some tips for motorists encountering snowplows:
• Snowplows have limited visibility and drivers cannot see directly behind their trucks;
• Snowplows often throw up clouds of snow behind them, reducing visibility for drivers following behind them;
• Motorists should never attempt to pass a moving snowplow on the right. With new wing plows and tow plows, the blade can clear the shoulder and the lane of travel simultaneously. Motorists attempting an illegal pass through a snow cloud on the right and/or shoulder of the road most likely won’t see the plow blade and run the risk of a serious crash; and
• MDOT snowplows throughout Michigan will be driving at 25 mph when applying salt, which helps keep more salt on the roadway driving lanes where it is most effective. Snowplows may travel at up to 45 mph when plowing only.
MDOT says: Drive like you want to make it home tonight.