Highway Department

Please drive safe, be aware of your surroundings.

Help snowplow operators safely clear roadways

When snow falls, the familiar plow trucks hit the roads to clear the way for Wisconsin motorists. 

Snowplows are common sights on roadways across the state as they work day and night to help people reach their destinations.  The St. Croix County Highway Department reminds people to keep their distance around snowplows.

People often forget how to deal with snowplows, which are critical in clearing roadways quickly so that people can once again travel and reach their destinations.

Losing patience when sharing the road with a snowplow endangers more than just the motorist.  Two of the snowplow operators’ greatest fears are drivers who just cannot wait to pass them and drivers who tailgate. 

A snowplow kicks up a cloud of snow.  It can also hit a ridge or drift of snow unexpectedly, causing a ‘whiteout.’  If a driver tries to overtake and pass a snowplow in these conditions, everything can disappear in the cloud, including oncoming traffic or the brake lights on the snowplow itself.  The cloud of snow may also hide the snowplow blade.

A typical plow route can be 30-50 lane-miles long, and in order to keep it open, a driver may have to plow it several times during a single snowstorm.  Drivers should avoid passing snowplows until absolutely certain that it is safe. Passing can be very dangerous on a freeway, when one lane is plowed and one lane is snow packed.  Drivers can lose control when the snow or slush suddenly grabs their tires.  

Following the plow too closely is not a good idea either, since the driver may have to stop or backup to clear a drift or open an intersection.  It is difficult to see when you are close behind the plow, and you may be unable to stop in time when the plow stops or turns.  State law requires motorists to stay back at least 200 feet.

Snowplow operators cannot stop to help motorists get vehicles out of the ditch or snow bank.  Unless the situation is clearly an emergency, operators remain focused on clearing the roadways safely and efficiently. 

This message is brought to you by the St. Croix County Highway Department and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to aid in raising everyone’s awareness of their surroundings.