WYDOT reports 10 snowplow strikes over a five-day span

Zach Miners photo

A snowplow clears the road in Rolling Hills Dec. 30 2020.

By: 
Staff report

A recent large spate of snowplow strikes has the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) seriously concerned.

WYDOT officials said there were 10 snowplow strikes over a five-day span between Feb. 11-16 as plows were out maintaining the roads due to recent wintry conditions. 

The most-recent strikes bring the total number to 17 for the winter season (October through May).

Some of the recent weekend snowplow strikes occurred near Elk Mountain and Rawlins on I-80 in southeast Wyoming, I-25 near Cheyenne in southeast Wyoming, I-25 near Wheatland, Chugwater and Douglas in east-central Wyoming, on WYO120 south of Cody and on WYO28 near Farson.

Most of the plows were struck from behind by other vehicles, resulting in minor damages and injuries; however, one incident involved a tractor trailer hitting the rear of the plow which totaled both vehicles and injured a WYDOT plow driver. Most of the public’s vehicles had to be towed from the highway.

“We want to remind the public to be careful when driving around our plows during winter weather,” said WYDOT Director K. Luke Reiner. “Our drivers are out there maintaining the roads by clearing the snow and putting down materials to help keep traffic moving. We want all drivers to pay attention and be careful so everyone gets home safely.”

The number of snowplow strikes has fluctuated over the past few years. There were 23 crashes for the 2019-2020 winter season, eight crashes for 2018-2019, eight for 2017-2018, three for 2016-2017, seven for 2015-2016 and 13 for 2014-2015.

To avoid collisions WYDOT officials urge motorists to pay attention, put down the distractions and drive cautiously.

Motorists should stay a safe distance behind a plow until it’s safe to pass. WYDOT’s snowplows typically travel slower at speeds of 25 to 45 MPH, depending on conditions. 

Motorists should never drive into an area of the road where they can’t see what’s in front of them.

“If a motorist sees a cloud of snow ahead of them when they are driving, there’s a good chance it is a snowplow,” Reiner said. “Do not drive into that cloud. Motorists should stay back and wait to pass. If a motorists sees the plow and they need to pass, they should do so only if they absolutely need to.”

However, motorists should never pass a snowplow on the right side of a two-lane road. In that situation, a snowplow could be using its wing plow, a plow that sticks out from the side of a truck, and a motorist may end up colliding with that part of the plow.

To stay safe, motorists should stay far behind snowplows so they can drive on roads that WYDOT crews have maintained and also so the plow operator can see them in their rear-facing mirrors. 

“If you can’t see to safely pass, a plow driver probably can’t see you either,” Reiner said. “We are urging the public to use caution and have patience. The snowplow will pull over to let you pass when they are able to and when it is safe for both the snowplow driver and the motorist.”

Before heading out, WYDOT officials are asking motorists to visit the department’s 511 travel information website at wyoroad.info, have an emergency kit, check their tires, plan for extra time to reach their destinations and let someone know where they’re heading.

Motorists can also visit WYDOT’s 511 website at wyoroad.info/511/WY511Mobile.html and install the 511 app on their smartphones.

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