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News Release

February 4 , 2004

Snowplow Crashes Prompt Warning to Motorists

MANKATO, Minn. —The onset of heavy snowfalls and several crashes involving snowplows prompt a warning from the Minnesota Department of Transportation for motorists to use extra care when driving near plows or in any weather or roadway conditions that can affect driving safety.

Over three-fourths of these rear-end crashes occur on four-lane, divided highways. Snowplow trucks clearing the left lane or passing lane run almost twice the risk of getting hit from behind as do trucks plowing the right lane. Most of the occurrences happen in daylight hours and during "clean-up" operations -- not at the peak of snowstorm.

State Patrol will take appropriate action against drivers who have rear-ended snow plows or struck their plows from behind. Offenses can range from inattentive driving, driving too fast for conditions to careless driving. If injuries occur charges can elevate.

Mn/DOT snowplow operators, and especially the left lane drivers, are fully aware of the danger of being hit from behind. They practice the ultimate in defensive driving. There are instances when snowplow operators intentionally drive their trucks into the median or ditch to avoid getting struck by another vehicle. In most situations, unfortunately, there is not enough time to get out of the way.
Most of the rear-end crashes with snowplow trucks are caused by one or a combination of these factors:

1. People driving into a snow cloud or tailgating a snowplow truck. Some motorists take their chances and literally drive into a cloud of snow not knowing if something is in or creating that swirl of white stuff. Snow clouds can be generated by the wind and vehicles, especially semi-trucks and snowplow trucks. Never drive into a snow cloud, especially when attempting to pass another vehicle on a two-lane roadway.

2. Motorists driving their vehicles faster than road conditions warrant. It is common knowledge that motorists nowadays are driving their vehicles "to the limit" -- and beyond -- when it comes to speed. As the snowplow trucks make the roadways more driveable, the traffic goes faster. Drivers take more risks and become more impatient.

3. Drivers do not realize how slowly a snowplow truck is moving. Depending on the snow and ice conditions, snowplow trucks may be traveling anywhere between 5 and 35 miles per hour. If the truck is spreading sand and salt mix its speed is usually around 10 to 20 mph.

4. Not paying attention to what lane the snowplow truck is in on a four-lane roadway. Motorists may not think about or understand how the driving lanes get cleared of snow and ice on a four-lane divided highway.

Mn/DOT and the Department of Public Safety also ask motorists to observe the state’s new “move over” law when they encounter emergency vehicles to give them an extra margin of safety. The law requires that motorists move safely a lane away from the emergency vehicle on a four-lane. If you are not able to safely move a lane away, slow down.

Roadways are the workplace of law enforcement personnel, medical first responders, tow truck drivers, transportation personnel and other professionals.

Too Fast. Too Close. Too Late.

We’re in the WORK ZONE Together

For statewide up-to-date traveler information, Minnesotans are now able to access weather-related road conditions, construction and congestion by dialing 511 or by logging on to

District 7, Mankato/Windom
501 S. Victory Dr.
Mankato, MN 56001-5302
Tel: 800/657-3747
Fax: 507/389-6281

Rebecca Arndt
Public Affairs Coordinator