How can I Safely Share the Road with a Snowplow?

Snowplow on a snowy road

Baltimore sees just over 20 inches of snowfall in an average winter. The snow ranges are highest from December to March, which means drivers need to be fully prepared to travel snowy or icy roads. Thankfully, snowplow drivers are out there on duty, literally paving the way for winter drivers. Snowplows and salt trucks do their best to keep roadways clear from ice and snow before, during, and after a snow event.

Hundreds of accidents occur each year between cars and snowplows. Sharing the road safely with a snowplow is the responsibility of both the snowplow operator and the vehicle driver. Following are some tips to help ensure safe driving this winter. Drivers who are unfortunate enough to have an accident involving a snowplow should contact an experienced car wreck lawyer for assistance.

Common Accidents Involving a Snowplow

Snowplow drivers are often on the job for many hours at a time as they try to keep up with snowfall and changing weather conditions. Although most drivers are cautious, accidents involving snowplows do happen. These are the most common causes of snowplow accidents:

  • Untreated roadways
  • Low visibility from rain, snow, sleet, or icy weather conditions
  • Intoxicated or impaired snowplow operators or motorists
  • Faulty snowplow equipment
  • Fatigued snowplow operators who have on the job for too many hours at a time
  • Inattention from motorists and pedestrians
  • Reckless driving by motorists, including speed, tailgating, improper passing
  • Driving into property, such as parked, stalled, or spun-out cars
  • Motorists driving too fast for conditions

Tips to Safely Share the Road with a Snowplow

Snowplows are heavy vehicles that travel, on average, just 35 miles per hour. It may be frustrating to drive behind or next to one, but motorists must give snowplows enough room to effectively do their jobs. The following are ways to share the road with a snowplow safely:

  • Snowplows need plenty of space. Drivers should stay about 10 car lengths behind them. Salt, snow, rocks, and other road debris can fly from the plow blades, possibly hitting nearby cars and decreasing visibility.
  • It is important to remember that the road ahead of the snowplow most likely has not been treated or plowed yet. Drivers must be patient if traveling behind, and let the snowplow pave the way for them.
  • If a snowplow approaches from the opposite direction on an undivided highway, drivers should pull as far to the right as possible to avoid flying debris.
  • Motorists should not pass snowplows. There are many good reasons not to pass snowplows, the primary being inability to see what is ahead. There may be other snowplows, icy and snowy conditions, drivers coming from the opposite direction, blades on the plow that are not visible from behind, and other hazards.
  • There may be times when it is necessary to pass a plow, such as in an emergency. If needed, a snowplow should be passed only on the left. The right side generally has an overhanging blade that could clip a vehicle. Drivers should pass on the left slowly and only when the road is clear of other drivers. It is important not to cut off the snowplow driver when moving back into the original lane.
  • Drivers should not tailgate a snowplow. Tailgating is never a good idea, but snowplows, especially, make frequent stops and turns and will slow down when there are railroad tracks, speed bumps, and other road obstacles. Drivers should stay far behind.
  • Motorists should not assume the snowplow driver can see vehicles behind or next to them. Snowplows, with their size and height, may have more blind spots than a passenger vehicle. Also, weather conditions may reduce the driver’s visibility. Motorists should drive defensively and not put the full responsibility for visibility on the snowplow.
  • Motorists should drive for the weather conditions. Many drivers do not slow down enough on snowy or icy roads, causing spinouts and other dangerous situations. Hitting a snowplow during a slide can cause serious damage to the car, bodily injury, or even death.
  • Drivers need to be on the alert for the flashing lights. Snowplows and salt trucks are required to use their flashing lights when in operation. Drivers should anticipate seeing snowplows on side roads, highways, berms/shoulder lanes, service roads, and even in parking lots. Motorists must be prepared to see them anywhere there is snow or ice.
  • Drivers should keep their car snow- and winter-ready. Cars that are not equipped to drive in the snow can cause accidents with snowplows and other vehicles.

How can I Drive Safely in a Passenger Vehicle During Winter?

Winter driving takes a little extra preparation than driving on a nice summer day. Snow or icy conditions can arise quickly, and roads that have not been treated can become slippery. Visibility can also be an issue, as snow, rain, ice, or sleet can fog windows and reduce the ability to see other vehicles. Keeping a vehicle as winter ready as possible can reduce the chances of being in an accident. These suggestions will help:

  • Drivers should have the car inspected before winter. It is important to make sure all lights, heating, and defrosters work. Tires should be at the proper pressure and have enough tread. Washer fluid, oil, antifreeze, and all other engine liquids should be checked and filled.
  • The battery should be checked and replaced if necessary. Extreme cold and accidents can cause a battery to lose power.
  • Snow tires are a good option. Tires made specifically for snowy conditions offer more traction and water-resistance.
  • Another good idea is to install winter wiper blades. These wipers offer more clearing capability, reducing ice and snow build-up.
  • Fog lights, headlights, and taillights should be used for maximum visibility, even during the day but especially during a rain or snowstorm.
  • Drivers should keep the gas tank at least half-full to avoid frozen fuel lines and in case of weather conditions that may strand the vehicle.
  • Snow and ice scrapers should be kept handy inside the vehicle. They should be used as often as needed to keep ahead of winter conditions.
  • Motorists should keep an emergency winter safety kit in the vehicle. This kit could include a flashlight with extra batteries, flares, blankets, heavy gloves, snow boots, water, snacks, snow shovel, de-icer spray, sand or cat litter, a laminated Help or other distress sign, phone charger, jumper cables, screwdriver, duct tape, and a first-aid kit.

What Should Drivers Do in a Winter Driving Accident?

Even the most cautious drivers can end up in an accident when snow and ice wreak havoc on the roads. Although snowplows and salt trucks do their best to keep up, accidents can and do happen. Drivers involved in a winter-weather accident with a snowplow or other vehicle should, only if able, do the following:

  • The first priority is to seek emergency help first; someone should call 911.
  • Drivers should tend to injured passengers if able while waiting for emergency responders.
  • Vehicles and people should be moved safely off the roadway to avoid additional accidents.
  • Someone should take pictures and videos of the accident scene, including damaged vehicles, injuries, the roadway, debris, weather conditions.
  • If witnesses are on scene, someone should try to get their contact information and statements.
  • Drivers should comply with police or other emergency responders, but do not admit fault or guilt.
  • Drivers should get the contact and insurance information from other vehicles involved.
  • Help from medical responders should be accepted; everyone should seek medical care afterward even if no immediate pains, concerns, or visible injuries are noted.
  • Drivers need to file a report with the insurance company.
  • Drivers should contact an experienced car wreck lawyer.

Baltimore Car Wreck Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Help Victims of Winter Weather Accidents

If you or a loved one is involved in an accident with a snowplow or other vehicle, you may be entitled to compensation for damages and injuries. Talking with the experienced Baltimore car wreck lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton is an excellent first step to take, as soon as possible after the accident. We can help you understand your rights and what you may be entitled to receive after incurring property damage, medical bills, and other losses in a winter-weather or other car accident. We will fight for all the rights and compensation you deserve. Call us at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online for a free consultation.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.