CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The Wyoming Department of Transportation has reported 10 snowplow strikes over a five-day span as plows were out maintaining the roads due to wintry conditions.
The incidents, which occurred from Feb. 11 through Feb. 16, bring the total number of snowplow strikes to 17 for the winter season, which runs from October through May.
The recent weekend snowplow strikes occurred near Elk Mountain and Rawlins on Interstate 80 in southeast Wyoming; Interstate 25 near Cheyenne in southeast Wyoming; I-25 near Wheatland, Chugwater and Douglas in east-central Wyoming; on WYO 120 south of Cody; and on WYO 28 near Farson.
Most of the plows were struck from behind by other vehicles resulting in minor damages and injuries. One incident, however, involved a tractor-trailer hitting the rear of a plow. In that incident, both vehicles were totaled and a WYDOT plow driver was injured.
“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 snowplow strikes has fluctuated over the past few years. There were 23 crashes during 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.
Motorists should stay a safe distance behind a plow until it is safe to pass. WYDOT’s snowplows typically travel slower at speeds of 25 to 45 mph, depending on conditions. Motorists should also 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 motorist sees the plow and they need to pass, they should do so only if they absolutely need to.”
However, motorists should never pass a snowplow on the right side of a two-lane road. In that situation, a snowplow 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 of the plow.
Motorists should stay far behind snowplows so they can drive so the plow operator can see them in their rear-facing mirrors.
“If you can’t see to safely pass a plow, 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 and the driver and the motorist.”
WYDOT officials are asking motorists to visit the department’s 511 travel information website at wyoroad.info. Motorists can also visit WYDOT’s 511 website by clicking visiting wyoroad.info/511/WY511Mobile.html where they can install the 511 app for their smartphones.