By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The Wyoming Department of Transportation is reminding drivers to be aware of snowplows after seeing 10 collisions involving the plows over a five-day period.
The strikes, which occurred from Feb. 11 to Tuesday, brought the total number of snowplows hit by other vehicles to 17 so far this winter season, which runs from October to May.
Most of the plows were struck from behind, resulting in minor damages and injuries. However, one incident involved a tractor trailer hitting the rear of the plow, which totaled both vehicles and injured the WYDOT plow driver, the department said.
“Because of one careless driver, there is one less plow and plow driver on Wyoming’s roadways,” WYDOT District 4 in northeast Wyoming said on its Facebook page.
In most cases, the vehicles striking the plows had to be towed from the highway, the department said.
Some of the recent weekend snowplow strikes occurred near Elk Mountain and Rawlins on Interstate 80, Interstate 25 near Cheyenne, I-25 near Wheatland, Chugwater and Douglas, on Wyoming Highway 120 south of Cody and on Wyoming Highway 28 near Farson.
On Saturday morning, a WYDOT plow truck south of Cody on Wyoming Highway 120 was hit from behind as the plow driver was parked in a mailbox turnout near the Park County maintenance shop. A truck sander was destroyed but no injuries were reported.
“We want to remind the public to be careful when driving around our plows during winter weather,” said WYDOT Director K. Luke Reiner. “Our drivers are out there maintaining the roads by clearing the snow and putting down materials to help keep traffic moving. We want all drivers to pay attention and be careful so everyone gets home safely.”
The number of strikes has fluctuated over the past few years, with 23 crashes recorded in the 2019-2020 winter season, eight crashes in 2018-2019, eight in 2017-2018, three in 2016-2017, seven in 2015-2016 and 13 in 2014-2015.
To avoid collisions, WYDOT officials urge motorists to pay attention, put down the distractions and drive cautiously.
Motorists should stay a safe distance, around the length of four vehicles, behind a plow until it is safe to pass. WYDOT’s snowplows typically travel at speeds of 25 to 45 mph, depending on conditions.
Motorists should never drive into an area of the road where they can’t see what’s in front of them.
“If a motorist sees a cloud of snow ahead of them when they are driving, there’s a good chance it is a snowplow,” Reiner said. “Do not drive into that cloud. Motorists should stay back and wait to pass. If a motorists sees the plow and they need to pass, they should do so only if they absolutely need to.”
Motorists should never pass a snowplow on the right side of a two-lane road, because the vehicle could be using its wing plow, a plow that sticks out from the side of a truck, and a motorist may end up colliding with that part.
“If you can’t see to safely pass, a plow driver probably can’t see you either,” Reiner said. “We are urging the public to use caution and have patience. The snowplow will pull over to let you pass when they are able to and when it is safe for both the snowplow driver and the motorist.”