Snow Safety: Sharing the Road With Snowplows
Snowplows help to clear the snow off the road to make them safe for us to drive on. While they are large and drive slowly, it’s important to not interfere with their job and continue to follow snow safety practices and rules of the road when they are around.
Increase the Amount of Space
Be sure to leave at least five car lengths of distance between your vehicle and a snowplow. These powerful machines require lots of space to turn, back up or swerve to avoid road obstacles. Snowplow drivers also have restricted visibility, meaning they may not be able to see you on the road. When a plow is being driven, salt and debris can fly out and potentially damage any vehicles near it. Also, in areas with sharp turns, hills or bridges, provide extra room for it to safely clear the roads smoothly and for you to have more reaction time in the event of a collision.
Do Not Pass
Do not attempt to pass a snowplow! It creates an extremely risky driving situation and could lead to a serious or fatal collision. The blue flashing lights warn motorists that they are present on the road and are driving slowly. Some snowplows are equipped with a wing blade on their left or right side that can spread as far as three metres and throw the current snow it’s plowing. This can form snow clouds, which can limit your visibility and the snowplow operator’s line of vision. Additionally, the road in front of a plow is more difficult to drive on as they haven’t cleared it yet. Staying back is the safest option.
Watch Your Speed
For extra caution, reduce your speed when you are driving behind a snowplow. Tailgating a plow can also be dangerous as salt, debris and potentially blowing snow could decrease your visibility and may cause a car accident. Adapt to the conditions of the road and drive slowly.
You may encounter several snowplows staggered on a multi-lane highway at the same time. This is known as echelon plowing. According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, plowing in echelon clears all lanes at once by passing a ridge of snow from one plow to the next. This also makes passing a snowplow more difficult and dangerous.
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