A winter storm that pounded Park County early last week apparently brought not only a flurry of snow, but also of dangerous driving.
While Wyoming Department of Transportation snowplows were working to clear U.S. Highway 14-A between Powell and Cody, the crews reported about a half-dozen instances where impatient drivers passed the plows on the right-hand side.
“People just, they’re not exercising very good common sense and ... frankly, they’re putting our snowplows in jeopardy,” said Cody Beers, a regional spokesman for the department.
He added that, “it seems like when people see that yellow color [of a WYDOT plow] they kind of go crazy.”
As Beers pointed out, passing a snowplow on the right makes no sense, as the heavy, dangerous machines are pushing the snow in that direction.
He said the culprits tend to be people rushing to or from work, though he noted they’re not saving a whole lot of time by rushing past a plow.
Snowplows are generally moving at 35 to 40 miles an hour and if plows are out, that likely means the roads are dangerous enough that you shouldn’t be going the full speed limit anyway.
But even assuming you got stuck behind a 35 mph plow for 10 miles, and that you could drive 70 mph otherwise, you’ve lost less than nine minutes of your life.
In contrast, making a risky decision to pass a snowplow in unsafe conditions could cost your entire life or the lives of others. Crashes can also put plows out of commission — making it even tougher for crews to keep the roads cleared — and even close calls can ruin a snowplow driver’s day.
“Would you want somebody running through your workplace causing you all kinds of stress?” Beers asked.
There’s been roughly a half-dozen crashes involving WYDOT snowplows so far this year, so the danger is real.
Beers said it was “lucky” that no collision occurred in Park County last week.
He asks drivers to show caution and courtesy while approaching plows. He suggests planning ahead and making extra time for your winter travels, which is wise advice.
But here’s another idea that might also help: The next time you get stuck behind a slow-moving snowplow or construction vehicle, before you get angry, consider feeling thankful that there’s someone working to improve your road.
We’re fortunate to have crews from the City of Powell, the Park County government and WYDOT who stand ready to get roads cleared and reopened as quickly as possible when snow or other elements strike.
Certainly, plowing or road construction doesn’t always go as fast as we’d like and that can be frustrating. But in the end, safety should trump convenience.
As Beers put it, “We just need to do a better job of taking care of each other out there.”