With more snow in the forecast for parts of Iowa tonight, Wednesday and this weekend, motorists are reminded to use caution around snow plows. Pete Hjelmstad, field services coordinator for the Iowa Department of Transportation, says the number of accidents involving snow plows being rear-ended is almost four times higher than average this winter in his 19-county district of northeast Iowa.
Hjelmstad says once you see a snow plow in front of you or the flashing amber beacon, starting slowing down because they are going a lot slower than you are and you are going to come up behind them quickly. He says drivers need to give snow plow drivers some courtesy and extra room.
“If you do pass a snowplow, make sure that you are around them. A lot of times people will pull back into the other lane a little too quickly, and the plow blade sticks out quite a ways — and they can end up clipping that plow blade with the back end of their car,” Hjelmstad says.
He adds, don’t tailgate, because the plow could slow down or stop quickly because they come up on a large drift or a stalled car, causing you to rear-end the plow if you aren’t paying attention. Hjelmstad says the prolonged bitter cold weather could have something to do with all of the accidents involving snow plows as the cold produces a more fluffy snow that blows around a lot. “If there’s a snow cloud up ahead of you on the road, something is causing that snow cloud. So, just slow down,” Hjelmstad
Drivers also need to be watching for snow plows for a few days after a storm. “Sometimes a storm clean up can last a couple days,” Hjelmstad says. He says after the initial plowing, crews are back out doing things like clearing shoulders, pushing snow back and cleaning the crossovers. Hjelmstad says a typical winter season sees about three accidents involving snow plows, but this season they are already up to 11.
Three of those have been in Cerro Gordo and Worth counties, two in Franklin County and one in Floyd County. He says there have not been any injuries to snow plow drivers or the public. The Cerro Gordo County engineer told the Board of Supervisors this week two of their plows were also rear-ended last Saturday due to reduced visibility.
(Reporting by Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City)