January 10, 2018 / By Aithra
Somewhere in the distance, a behemoth coughs to life. Winter storms are brewing, threatening to dump snow and ice across the land. Snow plow season is here. Drivers need to be prepared to share the road with these monster machines, which can weigh as much or more than 15 cars when fully loaded.
“As snow hits, there are a few things all motorists should remember,” says David Orr, director and senior engineer at the Cornell Local Roads Program in New York. “Whether an emergency has been declared or not, the snow plow is a much larger vehicle and takes longer to stop. Also, the drivers’ visibility is limited by the plow and the frame. Don’t tailgate, don’t pass and give the plow room to operate.”
Snow removal is a time-consuming process. How much time it takes and how thorough it depends on the snow and weather conditions as well as timing. Given similar amounts of snowfall, heavy, wet snow followed by a cold snap takes longer to remove and poses more problems than drier, lighter snow followed by more mild weather. Further, snow falling between midnight and 3 a.m. will get cleaned up faster than the same amount of snowfall occurring during or just before rush hour.
“It is much easier for the plows to do their job if the traffic volume is low and the operators can concentrate on removal of the snow and proper placement of any ice control materials,” Orr explains.
It goes without saying that motorists should stay off the roads when snow is falling during winter storms. Unfortunately, that isn’t always possible. If you do have to travel, here are five tips to help you share the road with snow plow and arrive safely at your destination:
- Check the road conditions before you go and while en route since they may change quickly and without much warning. Plan your route to avoid steep hills, blind stops, roads that are not well traveled and places where accidents frequently occur.
- Slow down and take your time. Don’t be in a hurry. Snowplows often travel at slower speeds. Depending on road and weather conditions, so should you. Give yourself plenty of travel time.
- Buckle up. If children are traveling with you, make sure they are secure in a correctly installed child restraint of appropriate size for their height and weight.
- Stay at least five (5) car lengths behind a snow plow and out of its snow cloud. Do not pass snow plows. When it is safe, snowplow operators will pull over allowing any traffic built up behind them to go around them.
- Stay alert. Snow plows may make sudden turns or exit roadways with little warning. They may also cross centerlines or medians into oncoming traffic lanes to better clear the road. Do not follow snow plows at such times unless directed to do so.
Winter travel should not be taken lightly, especially when snow is in the forecast or on the ground.
“During poor weather conditions, we can predict that the Trauma Center will see an increase of patients coming in with injuries due to motor vehicle accidents,” says Dr. James Vosswinkel, chief of trauma, emergency surgery, and surgical critical care at Stony Brook Medicine in New York. “Do not drive if you don’t have to go out, but if you do or are trying to get home, play it safe.”
Remember: snow plows are on the highways to improve winter travel for everyone. Share the road and arrive safely.