Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) officials are urging motorists to use extra caution and be on the lookout for snowplows when traveling during winter storms.

WYDOT has experienced a higher-than-normal number of snowplow collisions for the 2019-2020 winter season and is asking motorists to be extra vigilant when traveling. So far, 21 vehicles collided with WYDOT snowplows since October 2019.

“Our mission is to ensure the safety of the entire traveling public, including the men and women of WYDOT who are out maintaining the roads during wintry weather,” said WYDOT Director K. Luke Reiner. “We want everyone to get to their destinations safely and we urge everyone to slow down for conditions and be aware of their surroundings.”

The data WYDOT uses for snowplow crashes is during the winter season, which typically runs from October through April.

For the other winter seasons, there were eight crashes for 2018-2019, eight for 2017-2018, three for 2016-2017, seven for 2015-2016 and 13 for 2014-2015.

During a recent crash on Jan. 30 on Interstate 80 east of Rock Springs, a tractor trailer collided with the rear end a WYDOT snowplow, flipping the snowplow on its side.

WYDOT’s snowplow driver, who was wearing his seat belt, and the tractor trailer driver sustained no injuries.

Snowplows travel at 25 to 45 mph, depending on conditions. Motorists should stay a safe distance behind the plows until it’s safe to pass.

“If a motorist sees a cloud of snow ahead of them, they should use caution and not drive into it because there could be a snowplow ahead of them,” said WYDOT Chief Engineer Shelby Carlson. “If a motorist sees something like that, they should stay back and wait. If they can then see the truck, they can use caution and pass when safe to do so, if they absolutely need to.”

Motorists also should never pass a snowplow on the right side of a two-lane road because a snowplow could be using its wing plow. A motorist could see the wing plow last minute and end up running into it.

To stay safe, motorists should stay far behind snowplows so they can drive on roads that WYDOT crews have maintained and also so the plow operator can see them in their rear-facing mirrors.

“’If you can’t see to safely pass, don’t,” Carlson said. “The snowplow will pull over to let you pass when they are able to. They will move over when it is safe for them and you.”

Motorists can also travel safer this winter season by checking WYDOT’s 511 travel information website at wyoroad.info, having an emergency kit, checking their tires, allotting for extra time to reach their destinations and letting someone know where they’re heading.

Motorists can also visit https://wyoroad.info/511/WY511Mobile.html and install the 511 app for their smartphones.

Have a news tip or an awesome photo to share?