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WyDOT: Be patient when driving near snowplows

Mar 3, 2014 - From staff reports

Two snowplows have been hit by citizen drivers in the past month near Riverton and west of Dubois, prompting the Wyoming Department of Transportation to issue safety information to drivers about driving in winter weather.

One snowplow was hit Feb. 3 north of Riverton on Wyoming Highway 789 when a vehicle passed the plow truck on its right side and struck the wing plow. The driver was attempting to pass through the snow cloud being pushed toward the right side of the truck by the plow.

A second plow was hit Feb. 13 west of Dubois on U.S. Highway 26/287 when a pickup truck's driver lost control in near-whiteout conditions and slid sideways into the front of a moving plow truck.

No serious injuries resulted from either crash.

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WyDOT has numerous bright yellow snowplows, and when working the roads, these trucks have amber, red and blue flashing lights mounted on top of the cab and on the back of the sanders.

With limited visibility, snowplow drivers cannot see vehicles behind them if they are too close to the plows.

"We want you to drive safely to your destination," said Jim Thomas, WyDOT area maintenance supervisor in Lander. "Stay well back from operating snowplows. They are spreading sand, anti-icing and de-icing chemicals on the roadway. It's always a good idea to stay back from snowplows while their operators are doing their jobs."

WyDOT snowplows also usually operate at a slower speed than other traffic.

"Remember, the safest driving surface is behind the plow," Thomas said. "If you must pass, don't pass on the right into the plume of snow being moved. Be sure on two-lane highways that you have plenty of time to pass. Keep a close watch, these huge plows often stir up their own whiteout conditions while doing their work."

While research verifies fewer accidents occur on treated highways, de-icers and anti-icers can be sprayed up on vehicles from tires and wind.

"It's a good idea to wash off de-icing and anti-icing chemicals from your vehicle," Thomas said. "Don't forget to keep your wiper reservoir full of washer fluid in case you experience splash-back."

Thomas said winter conditions sometimes close roads. Reasons may include snow depth, limited visibility, high winds and drifting snow.

"In winter, give yourself extra time to reach your destination without having to drive faster than the conditions allow," Thomas said. "Winter driving requires a light touch and a cautious approach."

Thomas said drivers should remember that it takes extra time to slow down or stop on slick roads.

"Don't use your cruise control, and drive at appropriate speeds," he said. "If you encounter poor visibility, slow down. Always slow down for safety. If you don't have to go, don't."

For information on road conditions, call 511 or visit www.wyoroad.info.

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