More than 25 crashes between vehicles and MnDOT snowplows reported this winter

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The aftermath of a crash with a snowplow. (Photo credit: MnDOT)

MnDOT is asking drivers to be more cautious around snowplows after reporting 25 crashes between vehicles and state plows already this winter.

Last winter, 84 crashes were reported in total. With much of this winter remaining, MnDOT wants drivers to change their habits to avoid a record-breaking snowplow crash season.

“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.”

Plow drivers have a restricted view from the cab of the trucks, so they have to rely on their mirrors often. In addition, their vision is hampered by the clouds of snow they create when plowing.

These conditions require special attentiveness from motorists when sharing the road with plows.

“The safest place you can be is well behind the snowplow and away from the snow cloud it creates,” Stevens 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.”

According to MnDOT, state plows are responsible for 30,585 miles of roadway every year, including over 4,000 miles of lanes in the metro area alone. MnDOT boasts a fleet of 840 plows and 1,800 plow drivers. 

The trucks weigh as much as 70,000 pounds, or 15 times the size of the average car. 

In addition to using headlights, MnDOT recommends the following to avoid collisions with snowplows:

  • 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 seat belt.
  • Turn off the cruise control.
  • Be patient and remember snowplows are working to improve road conditions for your trip.
  • Dont' drive distracted.