Snowplowing in the North Country no easy task, says expert; patience required of motorists
Saturday, December 29, 2012 - 8:27 am


With winter having arrived with a vengeance earlier this week, many drivers need snowplowing and de-icing operations done quickly by the time they are ready to drive.

It’s unfortunate, but this is just too demanding, and here’s why.

Each superintendent of highways is responsible for so many miles of highway to plow, sand or salt and has a limited number of trucks and men. Also, it takes some time to get the plows out should a storm begin during the night or on weekends or holidays.

Each driver has to plow a given number of lane miles, and if the storm continues, repeat the operation again and again.

Meanwhile, motorists are an impatient group and are not happy if the roads aren’t cleared to our expectations but yet get aggravated if we must follow these snowplows for any distance,

By nature of the task snowplowing operations take place during very poor visibility. Therefore, we need to be aware that other vehicles complicate plowing operations. Vehicles tend to follow plows too closely.

The nature of clearing the roads of snow requires plows to back up, usually at intersections, where they must turn the corner, dump the load of snow, and back up before continuing.

Too often vehicles fill the space where the plow must back into. Give the plow plenty of space, especially at intersections.

Another major consideration is that the center of the road must be cleared which necessitates the front left part of the plow crossing the center line into the oncoming lane. This means oncoming vehicles must move to the right side of their lane, giving plenty of space for the plow blade. And, slow down!

Rural mailboxes and other roadside objects, such as illegally parked vehicles, add to the difficulty of a snowplow operator’s job. Plow operators do their best to avoid these obstacles, but are not always successful.

Remember, they are driving a large vehicle with a wide, heavy plow on the front, a wing plow on the side, a load of sand or salt with controls for applying the sand or salt on the highway, all of which must be operated by one person while driving this rig in poor visibility at all times of the day and night, and still contend with other motorists that do not appreciate this difficult and dangerous task.

When the occasional mailbox is hit and destroyed during plowing operations, you should be aware that, under traffic law and commissioner’s regulations, the municipality responsible for the plowing operations is under no obligation to fix or replace that mailbox.

If they do, it is as a courtesy and you should be very thankful for that. Damage to mailboxes is more often caused by the force of the plowed slush or snow than from actually hitting the mailbox. Sometimes a hit mailbox is the result of an oncoming vehicle not giving the snowplow enough room, requiring the snowplow operator to move closer to the side of the road.

So, as we demand a high level of service on our winter roadways, remember it comes as a result of dedicated employees trying to keep our roads as safe as possible while contending with miserable weather conditions, impatient motorists, objects along the highway, at all times of the day and night – because we demand it. So, let’s start appreciating it.

For more on traffic safety, go to: and, under “Departments” click “Traffic Safety Board”; “Did You Know” articles are under “Services.”

Editor’s note: Dave Werner represents the Franklin County Traffic Safety Board in nearby Franklin County.