Snowplow collisions nearly tripled in the past two years in Wyoming

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

The number of Wyoming snowplows impacted during Wyoming’s freeway cleanup has more than tripled in recent years.

Figures from the Wyoming Department of Transportation show that in 2020, 26 snowplows were in the back, up from eight in 2017 and 2018. In 2019, the number was 23.

Over the past weekend, another plow was hit on 1st Hwy 80 between Laramie and Cheyenne, causing minor damage to the wing plow on the passenger side. Fortunately, the driver was not injured, according to Jordan Achs, senior public relations specialist for the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT).

Achs said several factors can be blamed for the growth of collisions, including the whiteout conditions that plows create when clearing roads.

Their speed is also a contributing factor as to plow effectively you need speeds of 35-40mph, making them a target for drivers going too fast for the conditions.

The mini-blizzards that snow plows create, especially when the wind is blowing, also make them susceptible to being hit from the rear or having their wing plows hit by drivers who don’t leave enough room. to pass.

“These visibility and speed issues can lead to plow strikes,” Achs said. “Especially if drivers are driving too fast for the conditions or if they are distracted.”

Most accidents are the result of a plow from the rear or the side.

Miraculously, injuries from crashes tend to be low. The last happened in February 2021 when a plow was struck on Interstate 80 near Rawlins, causing it to tip completely before landing upside down.

This driver was taken to hospital with injuries. The accident happened in the middle of a five-day storm that also affected nine other plows.

Most snowplow collisions happen on highways, with 17 of the 26 accidents last year occurring on highways 80, 90 and 25.

With the 15% shortage of snowplow operators this year, Achs said the department has learned from the foreman and staff that recruiting drivers, especially on I-80, is becoming increasingly difficult as it continues. due to high speeds, driver inattention and other poor driving habits on the part of other drivers that put snowplow operators at risk.

Ensuring the safety of plows

One of the safest ways to guard against snowmobile collisions is to slow down and drive at speeds appropriate for the conditions, Achs said.

“Where there is ice and snow, take it easy,” she said.

Achs said he understands that drivers behind snowplows can get tired of traveling behind them, but added that giving snowplows the space they need to work is essential.

Drivers should stay four to five car lengths behind plows and when passing, drivers should wait until they have enough room and visibility to do so, Achs said.

She added that snowplows should never be passed on the right.

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