Do You REALLY Want to Pass the Snow Plow?

It is easy to identify a person driving safely from someone who is a bad driver by their attitude about whether to pass a snow plough on winter roads.

View of traffic at sunset on Interstate I-87 in New York State.
Traffic on a wintery I-87, with the Catskill Mountains in the background.   Copyright image.

Is that whiteness you can see on the road just a sprinkling of light snow or could there be ice in among it.

View from an over-bridge of traffic in a blizzard on Interstate I-90 in New York State.
Traffic in a blizzard on Interstate I-90, near Buffalo, New York State. Copyright image.

If there is any doubt about how slippery the road might actually be, and you happen to be following a snow plow, why on earth would you overtake the plow?

View of a snow plough spreading salt.
A snow plow, but simply spreading salt not actively plowing, on Interstate I-90 at Albany NY. Copyright image.

It seems like a silly question but its amazing how many drivers will do this, long after the point when the road surface can be accurately, reliably  be assessed.

View of a pick-up truck that has skidded off the I-90 Interstate into a bank of snow.
Fortunately, the driver of this pick-up truck merely skidded it off the highway into a snow bank. Copyright image.

Some of the commonest culprits are the drivers of four-wheel-drive [4WD] or all-wheel-drive [AWD] vehicles, many of whom apparently think that 4WD and AWD cars and pick-ups somehow have more grip on slippery roads than do two-wheel-drive vehicles but that is simply not true.  They DO have more traction — for setting off from a standstill or slowly climbing a slippery hill — but not more grip, which is a different thing and is governed solely by the type and quality of the tires, the vehicle’s speed, and the slipperiness (i.e. “coefficient of friction”) of the road surface.

Photo of a car that has been skidded off I-90 onto the median.
A car that has been spun off the I-90 Interstate, onto the median. More people will now be put in danger during the recovery of this vehicle.

So before you go cruisin’ on by the plow, take time to think whether your hopes of saving a few minutes by going from a poor road surface to what might be a terrible road surface is somehow worth the risk.

Photo of an ambulance on an emergency run, in a blizzard.
The alternative way to finish a winter drive, whether the driver puts him or herself in an ambulance or a hearse, or inflicts that outcome on other people. Copyright image.

If you do decide to stay behind the plow stay well back.  It helps your view ahead and the plow driver’s view of you in the mirrors, but it certainly does NOT give the newly spread salt any chance to work in such a short time so don’t get complacent about having good grip!

Finally, if you have drivers who have to be behind the wheel in winter months, we will happily run safe driving courses for your team during that time, up to the point where either the roads are closed for safety or our instructors make a judgement call on that same issue.  Over our twelve years doing this work, with several instructors, that has put our team off the road for exactly one half-day!  See more information about our courses then contact us to discuss your needs.



Also see:  Winter Tires or All-Season Tyres? See this for Some Big Surprises! (Video)

and  Don’t Trust Tire Shops or Car Mechanics to Put Correct Pressures in Your Tires!

Author: EddieWren

Eddie Wren is the CEO and Chief Instructor at Advanced Drivers of North America. His driver safety background is given at:

2 thoughts on “Do You REALLY Want to Pass the Snow Plow?”

  1. Absolutely right Eddie. So many drivers/vehicle owners get sucked in by the manufacturer’s publicity that Car A is so much better/safer/desirable/sexier than Car B that they forget (or never realised) that the laws of physics cannot be bent by such hype…….Training would help, but hey that’s for the other guys…….me, I’m a good/great/competent/superb driver. 🙁

    1. Yes, indeed, Roger. The stats allegedly show that while over 90 per cent of all drivers consider themselves to be anywhere from ‘above average’ up to ‘outstanding’ as drivers — something that statisticians politely refer to as an ‘improbable’ scenario — over 90 per cent of all crashes involve driver error…. As Americans would so appropriately say: “Do the math!”

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