When a winter storm is expected here in Colorado, one of the first things Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) officials do is to make sure all state snowplow vehicles are ready to go. These big, orange vehicles are on the front lines when it comes to battling snow and ice on Colorado state highways. In addition to the state's fleet of almost 1,000 snowplows, there are county, municipal, and even privately owned snow plows across the state.
During a Snow Storm
During a Colorado snowstorm, the state plows will first tackle roadways that see a daily average of 1,000 or more vehicles. The plows first apply a liquid de-icer and then they operate non-stop for 24 hours or until normal driving conditions exist again. In addition to the liquid de-icer, the plows scrape accumulated snow with their blades and also spread a solid de-icer such as sand.
On the most heavily trafficked highways, you will often see multiple plows driving in a tandem formation across multiple lanes. The plow in the furthest left lane will lead the group, with each plow behind following behind and to the right. This allows for the highways to be cleared efficiently in one sweep. It is against the law in Colorado to pass snowplows when their lights are flashing and they are operating in a tandem formation.
On roadways that see less than 1,000 daily vehicles, the state plows will only operate between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m., but exceptions are made for school bus routes, highways that are prone to accidents, and hospital or emergency routes.
Sharing the Road with Snowplows
Snowplow drivers work hard to make sure Colorado roads are safe and passable. When you see a snowplow on the highway, remember the following tips.
- Give a snowplow plenty of space to do its job. Don't tailgate.
- Never pass a plow on the right. The blade of the plow pushes snow and debris to the right, meaning you could severely damage your vehicle.
- Don't drive alongside a snowplow. Due to the size and height of the vehicle (and possibly snowy conditions), a plow driver may not see you.
In Colorado Springs, a driver was killed on February 18, 2020, when the snow-removal truck he was driving went off the road and down a steep embankment into a culvert. Stephen Houston, 27, was a snow-removal truck driver for Colorado Springs' Academy District 20. Unlike the state snowplow orange vehicles, Houston was driving a regular Ford F150 pickup that did not have “headache” bars installed behind the cab window. The salt-spreading machine in the back of the truck flew through the rear window and struck Houston in the accident.
And in January, two people were killed after they were struck by a snowplow as they walked along a road near Manhattan, Kansas. The snowplow driver was not plowing at the time, but the area had just been hit by a heavy snowstorm that blanketed the midwest.
Denver Accident Attorney, Experienced with Inclement Weather
Snowplows are essential to keeping Colorado roads safe and passable during snowstorms, but sometimes the debris they kick up can cause an accident, or another careless driver can get in their way and cause a major backup on the road. If you have been the victim of an accident where a snowplow was involved, determining who is at fault may be difficult, depending on whether the driver was a state, county, or municipal employee. Contact the team at accidentdenver.com today to find out how they can help you move on with your life and recover the compensation you deserve.