Snow plows and other snow removal equipment cause scores of accidents each year, and motorists should steer clear of these machines as they move down the road. Snow plows pose a serious risk to motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, and personal property. When an accident with a snow plow occurs, individuals may have the ability to file claims against the driver, their employer, or the government entity that employs the driver.
Duty of Snow Plow Drivers
Snow plow operators have a duty of care to the public that includes ensuring their vehicle is in good condition. This includes inspecting all lights and brake systems, tires, wipers, plow bolts and chains, and the auger/spreader. In all weather conditions, drivers are required to ensure that they can maintain control over the vehicle.
Liability of Employers and Government Entities
Private employers and government agencies that operate snow plows are required to ensure their drivers are sufficiently trained in the safe handling of their snow plows. This includes providing thorough training on how to maintain and repair the vehicle and how to detect and navigate road hazards.
Drivers must also be regularly tested for drug and alcohol abuse, and as with other CDL drivers, they must be fully rested when they get behind the wheel.
Staying Safe Around Plows
Individuals should be vigilant around snow removal equipment. In order to avoid an accident with a snow plow, drivers should keep sufficient distance between their vehicle and the plow at all times. Most plows travel at 35 mph. However, this speed can vary significantly depending on the type of road, traffic, and prevailing weather conditions.
Drivers should never tailgate a plow or attempt to overtake a snow plow while it is plowing snow. They should pay close attention to any signs on the vehicle and should avoid traveling in the vehicle’s blind spots. If it is necessary to pass the plow, drivers should only do so when they can pass with sufficient distance between their vehicle and the snow plow’s blade. Failing to correctly judge this distance can result in “clipping” the blade and spinning out of control, or becoming entangled and crushed beneath the plow.
Pedestrians and cyclists who are in the vicinity of an active plowing operation should move to a safe position and wait for the snow plow to finish plowing. At no time should a pedestrian or cyclist attempt to cross in front of an active plow, as the vehicle may not have sufficient time to brake and avoid a collision.