ADOT reminds motorists to drive with care near snowplows

Drivers urged to slow down, give plows plenty of room

PHOENIX — Every winter season, Dave Harmon spends many days and nights plowing snow and ice to clear the highways in the Holbrook area. The hours are long, the weather can be treacherous, and the conditions are challenging, even dangerous at times, especially when drivers don’t give the plows enough room to work.

It’s easy to take for granted the important jobs performed by Arizona Department of Transportation snowplow operators, as they work around the clock during winter storms to quickly clear the roads in order to make traveling easier and safer along our state highways. Snowplow drivers offer some valuable tips to those traveling in snow country in order to keep everyone safe on the road.

ADOT Holbrook District snowplow drivers Dave Harmon, Kelly White and Beau Wagoner all agree that motorists can best help snowplow operators by slowing down and yielding to snowplows at a safe distance when plows are busy at work during snowstorms.

“Motorists should be aware that a plow’s top speed is about 45 miles an hour, and less in heavy snow,” said Harmon. “Drivers should stay back about 100 feet or more when following a snowplow. If they must pass, do so when sight distance assures safety. Motorists should be aware that occasionally things are hiding beneath snow and can be propelled to the side by the plow, such as wheel covers, asphalt chunks and rocks.”

ADOT has 450 employees who have extensive training and commercial driver licenses, which are required to operate a snowplow. During winter storms, operators typically work 12-hour shifts. The department has 214 snowplow trucks in its fleet, stationed in eight districts across the state.

Highways that are typically easy to travel during the summer months can become icy or snow-covered during the winter, especially during major storms. Travelers should be extra cautious on these snowy and slippery roads, expect delays in wintery conditions and plan ahead for extra travel time. That includes allowing more time when traveling around snowplows.

Snowplow operators offer these tips for drivers:

  • First and foremost, never expect that a plow driver knows you are in the vicinity of the snowplow.
  • Always keep a safe distance behind a snowplow, usually three to four times what you would normally allow behind another vehicle.
  • Never stop too close behind a plow truck — you never know if the driver might need to back up.
  • Never pass a plow truck on the right side if the plow is pushing snow in that direction — some trucks are equipped with a second side plow blade, which could be hit by a motorist’s vehicle.
  • It’s important for both large and small vehicles to share the road with snowplows. In addition to driving, plow operators are also focused on what’s going on inside their cab and with situations on the roadway. Drivers should always use extra caution when approaching a plow truck from any direction.
  • Snowplows need extra room to turn, so avoid getting into their blind spot area.
  • Just because a plow truck has been through the area, drivers should not assume the roadway is completely clear of snow and ice. Don’t speed and always use caution during winter driving conditions.
  • Nighttime plowing is far more difficult than daytime plowing, so use extra caution around snowplows after dark.
  • If you can’t see the plow driver, there is a good chance the driver can’t see you either.

Here are some additional tips when sharing the road with snowplows:

  • Never pass a snowplow that’s in the process of clearing snow and ice off the road.
  • Stay back. Plowed snow can create a cloud that reduces visibility, and spreaders on trucks throw salt or sand that can damage your vehicle.
  • Watch for snowplows operating in multiple travel lanes or in tandem.
  • If approaching an oncoming snowplow, slow down and give the plow extra room.

More information can be found on ADOT’s “Know Snow” website at

Before heading out on the roads, drivers are encouraged to call 5-1-1 or log on to ADOT’s Traveler Information Center at for the latest highway conditions around the state. The website features real-time images along state highways that give drivers a glimpse of weather conditions in various regions. ADOT’s Twitter feed is a great resource for travelers, too.