MnDOT urges extra caution around snowplows following fatal accident

File photo | Minnesota Department of Transportation

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is urging motorists to use extra caution during plowing and snowing operations.

There have been more than 30 crashes this season involving vehicles and snowplows, including a fatal accident Tuesday evening.

A snowplow was actively plowing with its lights on while traveling Westbound on Highway 10, near Royalton when Timothy Michael Ekhoff, 30, of St. Michael rear-ended the snowplow. Ekhoff was driving a Snap-On truck. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation recommends staying at least five car lengths back, ten if possible.

“Crashes typically happen because of inattentive drivers, motorists driving too close to the plow or motorists driving too fast for conditions,” said Steve Lund, state maintenance engineer. “Our snowplow drivers are well trained to drive their plows, but motorists should be patient and stay back from the plow. Snowplows travel much slower than the posted speeds because it is most effective for clearing roads.”

Often times, snowplow operators ability to see behind them is restricted so they have to rely on mirrors to see the back and the side of the truck.

“Their vision is also hampered by the snow clouds they create while plowing. So the safest place you can be is well behind the snowplow and away from the snow cloud it creates,” Lund said.

Minnesota law requires motorists to turn on their headlights when it's snowing or at any other time when weather conditions impair visibility.

MnDOT’s recommendations for staying safe around snowplows:

  • Stay back and stay alive. Stay back at least 10 car lengths behind the plow, far from the snow cloud. Don’t drive into a snow cloud.
  • Stay alert for snowplows that turn or exit frequently and often with little warning. They also may travel over centerlines or partially in traffic to further improve road conditions.
  • Slow down to a safe speed for current conditions.
  • Turn on your headlights and wear your seat belt.
  • Turn off the cruise control.
  • Be patient, and remember snowplows are working to improve road conditions for your trip.
  • Don’t drive distracted.

Minneapolis and St. Paul have announced snow emergencies, which go into effect at 9 p.m. Wednesday.