Watch for plows clearing the roads

Bitter cold temperatures are about to give way to more seasonable conditions in the Upper Peninsula and northeastern Wisconsin.

That’s a relief for many local residents. However, that usually means we should be getting our snow shovels ready.

That’s winter in the U.P. Either it’s too cold to snow, or the temperature moderates and we receive a fresh snowcover every day.

Just as sub-zero wind chill readings have its own dangers, so does shoveling and snow plowing.

Just this week, a private snowplow pushes snow into a state highway, causing a public snow plow to crash and roll over, injuring the driver. Meanwhile, in another area of the state a motorist disregards winter conditions, traveling too fast and crashes into the rear of a Michigan Department of Transportation plow, disabling it.

“Slippery roads, reduced visibility, and excessive speeds greatly reduce the margin of error in winter driving,” said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. “We implore private plow operators and motorists to be extra cautious, and avoid doing anything that adds to the hazards of winter driving or roadway maintenance.”

Two main concerns are when residents and businesses pile snow at the ends of driveways along the highway shoulder, and when snow is pushed across the road, leaving snow or slush on the road surface.

The Michigan Vehicle Code prohibits depositing “snow, ice, or slush on any roadway or highway,” and “the obstruction of safety vision by removal or deposit of snow, ice, or slush.”

This includes the end of driveways, where banked snow can reduce visibility for vehicles trying to enter the roadway. Leaving a trail of snow on the pavement while plowing across the road also can create an added hazard to unsuspecting motorists and to road maintenance personnel.

Motorists also should be particularly careful around winter maintenance snowplows and salt trucks. These large, powerful vehicles may be traveling at slower speeds than vehicles around them, and may be obscured by blowing snow.

“For your safety and the safety of our operators, it’s important to give snowplows a buffer to do their work,” Steudle said in a statement.

Steudle offers some tips for motorists encountering snowplows:

– Snowplows have limited visibility and drivers cannot see directly behind their trucks.

– Snowplows often throw up clouds of snow behind them, reducing visibility for drivers following behind them.

– Motorists should never attempt to pass a moving snowplow on the right. With new wing plows and tow plows, the blade can clear the shoulder and the lane of travel simultaneously. Motorists attempting an illegal pass through a snow cloud on the right and/or shoulder of the road most likely won’t see the plow blade and run the risk of a serious crash.

– Distracted driving is dangerous driving. Motorists should not text or talk on cell phones while they are behind the wheel, especially in winter conditions. In fact, texting while driving is illegal in Michigan.

– Michigan Department of Transportation snowplows throughout Michigan will be driving at 25 mph when applying salt, which helps keep more salt on the roadway driving lanes where it is most effective. Snowplows may travel at up to 45 mph when plowing only.

– More road salt is not always the cure for slippery roads. When temperatures fall below 20 degrees, the action of the salt takes longer to work. Continuing to apply salt at very low temperatures will actually cause more problems than it solves.

Fast Facts:

– Piling snow at the ends of driveways along highway shoulders and pushing snow across roads can create hazardous conditions.

– Piling or depositing snow that obstructs vision is a violation of Michigan’s Vehicle Code.

– Snowplows often throw up clouds of snow behind them, reducing visibility for drivers following behind them.

– Motorists should never attempt to pass a moving snowplow on the right, as this is both unsafe and illegal.