The province is urging caution from motorists when driving near snowplows after a truck was spotted narrowly passing one along a snowy highway in Campbell River.
“This could have ended very badly today,” the Ministry of Transportation said in a tweet Tuesday, along with a collage of three photos showing a truck attempting to pass a Mainland North Island Contracting snowplow on Highway 19 between Willis Road and Jubilee Parkway. The plow can be seen with its lights on, which means it was actively plowing snow or sanding the road.
According to the ministry, the driver split two plows which were driving in tandem as each worked to clear a different side of the highway simultaneously, a practice called echelon plowing.
“It was a miracle he didn’t cause an accident or go off the road himself,” said Damian Girard, Road Manager for Mainroad Group North Island, who happened to witness the incident and took pictures. “Basically our trucks try to stay fairly tight to prevent them from doing that. There was only two pickup truck lengths between our plow trucks.”
The ministry said passing snowplows is never safe, especially because the rig is equipped with winged blades which can become hidden underneath the snow its throwing off the roadway. This driver did pass the back truck in the left lane then passed the lead truck in the right lane and, in fact, was over on the paved shoulder, Girard said.
“In some of the pictures you can barely see this truck because he’s just getting buried in snow (from the snowplow blade),” Girard said.
Transportation officials recommend that motorists give snowplows plenty of space – about 10 car lengths – in order to stay clear of salt and winter abrasives, as well as rocks and other debris in the snow, that can fly up and hit nearby vehicles.
Other precautions include:
- Don’t tailgate any vehicle, it puts you at risk of a collision; tailgating a piece of heavy equipment armed with plows only ups the consequences.
- Pull as far over to the right as is safe when you see a snowplow approaching from the opposite direction along an undivided highway. That way, you will be clear of any salt or sand.
- Don’t assume the snowplow operator can see you, especially if you’re driving too close and visibility is poor, such as in a snowstorm. Your best defense is to keep your distance.
- And most importantly: give the snowplow operator a wave when they pull over to let you pass to say thank you.