Practice Patience around Snow Plows This Winter

Winter is well and truly here in Ontario, and that means snow plows are out clearing city streets and highways. Plows are a welcome sight after a big snowfall, but with the benefits of snow clearance comes risk. Because of their size, function and design, plows can result in dangerous or even deadly situations when care is not taken.

So what should you do when you approach or find yourself in the vicinity of a snow plow? They key is patience. Keep these plow safety tips top of mind:

Slow Down
The first rule of plow safety is to slow down–way down. Reducing your speed gives you better control over your vehicle and adjust to different road conditions and other vehicles’ movements.  Speaking of slowing down, did you know that winter tires that are in good condition can shorten braking distances by as much as 25%?

Stay Back
If you are behind a snow plow, leave plenty of room between your vehicle and the plow. Many plows have rear warning signs to this effect. A good rule of thumb is to leave at least three car lengths’ distance between your vehicle and the plow. Plows may need to back up suddenly.

Give Space
If a plow is travelling towards you from the opposite direction, move over to the right edge of your lane to give a wide berth. Never drive alongside a plow.

Never Pass
Never pass a plow, even when it is not visibly working at plowing, sanding or salting. It could result in a serious or even fatal collision. This graphic illustrates the dangers of passing:


Image source: Winter Driving–Be Prepared, Be Safe! (Ontario Ministry of Transportation)

Echelon plowing is often used on major roads or highways. This is a method where multiple plows are staggered across a roadway, clearing the entire surface at once rather than one lane at a time. It can be frustrating to find yourself behind a row of echelon plows, but don’t be tempted to pass or weave between them. The Ontario Ministry of Transportation reminds drivers that it’s “extremely dangerous to pass either between or around snow plows because of whiteout conditions and the ridge of snow being passed between plows.”

Be Seen
If you are a pedestrian or cyclist and find yourself in the vicinity of a plow, assume that the operator cannot see you. Move to a safe area such as an adjacent yard until the plow has passed. Kids should never play in snowbanks along a roadway–plow operators are not likely able to see them.

Remember: have patience and respect for snow plows–they are heavy machinery and without abundant care, can cause great harm in the blink of an eye.

Sources: City of Ottawa, Ontario Ministry of Transportation, City of Kingston, City of Belleville