State Patrol reminds drivers that snowplows require extra room to operate

​Release date: December 11, 2020

As another winter travel season approaches, the Wisconsin State Patrol’s December Law of the Month reminds motorists to be extra cautious when driving near snowplows. Over the last decade in Wisconsin (2010 – 2019), there have been 3,152 snowplow-related crashes resulting in 388 people injured and three fatalities.

“Many crashes between snowplows and other vehicles occur when the snowplow is rear-ended, usually by a driver travelling too fast for conditions,” Wisconsin State Patrol Superintendent Anthony Burrell said. “For everyone’s safety, drivers should avoid travel during severe winter storms to allow snowplow operators to make their rounds. When driving in the vicinity of a working snowplow, give it plenty of room.”

State law (s. 346.915, Wis. Stats.) requires drivers to stay at least 200 feet behind a snowplow engaged in snow/ice removal upon any highway with a posted speed limit of more than 35 mph.

Violations can result in a $175 fine and assessment of three demerit points. The State Patrol offers these additional safety tips:

  • Snow means slow. Allow extra travel time, following distance and reduce your speed during wintry travel conditions.
  • If you must pass, be careful. Snowplows often create a cloud of snow that can obscure vision. Also, road conditions in front of the plow will likely be worse. 
  • Motorists and vehicles that become stranded during winter storm events become major hazards that interfere with snow removal efforts. Again, if possible, stay off roads during severe winter weather and wait until conditions improve.

Under a century-old partnership, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation contracts with all 72 county highway departments to handle winter maintenance duties on the state highway system (all numbered highways). 

“Snowplow operators work during challenging weather conditions to help keep roadways as safe as possible for all of us,” Superintendent Burrell said. “Motorists can help by giving snowplows plenty of room to operate and by staying off the roads during severe winter storms.”

For more information, contact:

WisDOT Office of Public Affairs
(608) 266-3581, opa.exec@dot.wi.gov