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10 Things Snow Plow Drivers Want You to Know

If you think driving to and from work in the winter is difficult, imagine what it's like for a snow plow driver. Plow drivers are tasked with keeping the roads clear so drivers can get to where they need to be, safely. Here are 10 things snow plow drivers want you to know.

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Know When to Pass

Never attempt to pass or drive next to a snow plow when it’s actually plowing. Plows can suddenly and unexpectedly move sideways from hitting drifts or by cutting through packed snow, according to the County Road Association of Michigan.

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It’s Hard for Us to See

Often, plow drivers have limited visibility when clearing the roads. This is especially true when it comes to what’s behind the plow. When plowing, a “snow cloud” is often thrown up and this restricts visibility on all sides of the truck. The Minnesota Department of Transportation says motorists should stay back at least 10 car lengths between your vehicle and the plow. This will help prevent you from experiencing that “snow cloud.”

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We Work Long Hours

In Washington state, snow plow drivers and maintenance crews work 10-hour shifts, four days in a row. “They run two shifts per day and twice a day there are 90 minute periods when all the plows are off the road,” said Jeff Adamson, communications manager for the Washington State Department of Transportation. If it’s heavily snowing, plow drivers may get called in on their off days. It can be taxing, as snow plow drivers have to concentrate in hazardous conditions for long periods of time.

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Mistakes Happen

“Sometimes the weight of the snow coming off the plow will knock down a mailbox and sometime a driver may hit mailboxes when plowing along the curb line,” according to the City of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. To help drivers, check to see if your mailbox is placed properly and conduct an annual check on the mailbox before the snow begins to fall.

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Salt Doesn’t Always Work

Different storms require different snow- and ice-fighting techniques, according to the City of Iowa City. If the temperature is below 20 degrees F and not expected to rise, salt isn’t effective. The decision whether to plow or salt is made on the most recent weather information available.

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snowplows_183122369_09 winter driving tips icy roadsBenoit Daoust/Shutterstock

We Go Slow

Trucks typically plow and salt at speeds of 45 miles per hour or less, according to the Livingston County Road Commission in Michigan. Of course that all depends on road conditions, so be sure to always be patient.

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There Will Still Be Slippery Spots

No matter how hard snow plow drivers work, roads will still be slick in some areas. Be cautious in areas such as intersections, off-ramps, bridges and shady areas. According to the State of Indiana, these are hot spots for ice.

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Don’t Pass on the Right

Never attempt to pass a snow plow on the right side. Many plows have “wings” that allow the plow driver to clear both the shoulder and the lane of travel in the same pass. According to the County Road Commission of Michigan, “These wings can extend six feet from the plow and weigh as much as a small compact car. When obstructed from view by the “snow cloud'” this poses a significant danger to motorists violating the law and attempting to pass on the right/shoulder of the road.”

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Consider Staying Home

If the roads are extremely bad or the storm is right over your location, consider staying put. “We know this isn’t possible all the time, but if it’s an option, choose it,” according to the Kansas Turnpike Authority. “The roads are dangerous enough, and with the unpredictability of other drivers, why risk getting into an accident?”

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Be Patient

“Don’t forget, we’re in the storm together,” says the Minnesota Department of Transportation. “Be patient with the snowplows and drive according to road conditions. Heavy traffic congestion affects snowplowing operations, so if you’re stuck in traffic, so are the snow plows.”

Rachel Brougham
Rachel Brougham lived through a major home renovation in 2019, knows the ups and downs of home improvement, and loves sharing tips with readers. A veteran journalist of both print and television, she’s won several awards for her writing and has covered everything from the environment and education to health care, politics and food. She’s written for several publications beyond newspapers including Bob Vila, Taste of Home and Minnesota Parent, and she currently writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column. Her memoir, Widowland, about the sudden loss of her husband, was published in 2022. She specializes in everything from home decor and design to lawn and garden, product reviews and pet care. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her tending to her garden (both vegetables and native plants), playing with her dog, watching sports with her family or getting some exercise. A native of Michigan, she currently lives in Minneapolis. An avid user of Instagram, you can follow her @RachBrougham.