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Don’t mess with the 70K-pound behemoth

It’s a warning worth repeating: Stay back and be patient around snowplows.

Your car, SUV or big powerful pickup is no match for a tandem-axle powerhouse that can weigh more than 70,000 pounds when loaded with sand or salt. The curb weight of a full-size pickup with a full payload is around 8,000 pounds.

It’s not that we think drivers are playing macho games of chicken with snowplows and that presenting the tale-of-the-tape will dissuade those kinds of folks anyway. It’s just that the next time you catch yourself closing in on a plow, you might think twice. At least pay attention.

Just as 2017 came to a close, during the afternoon of Dec. 29, a woman from Nora Springs, Iowa, crashed into a back of a Minnesota Department of Transportation snowplow on Interstate 90 in Mower County. The plow driver was fine. The Nora Springs woman was loaded into an ambulance and sent to the hospital. Her injuries were not life-threatening.

A day earlier, two women were trapped beneath a Subaru that collided with an MnDOT snow plow on Highway 61 in Lake County. Luckily, they survived.

There have been at least 22 crashes in the state so far this season involving vehicles and snowplows, according to a news release issued Wednesday from MnDOT. The agency is urging motorists to use extra caution this week as significant snow is forecast.

“Inattentive drivers, motorists driving too close to the plow and motorists driving too fast for conditions are the main causes of these crashes,” said Steve Lund, state maintenance engineer. “Our snowplow drivers are well-trained to drive their plows, but motorists should be patient and stay back from the plow. Snowplows travel much slower than the posted speeds because it is most effective for clearing roads.”

Lund said that operators’ ability to see behind them is restricted, so they must rely on mirrors. It’s easy to miss a tailgater.

“Their vision is also hampered by the snow clouds created while they plow. So, the safest place you can be is well behind the snowplow and away from the snow cloud it creates,” he said.

Last year in Minnesota, there were 58 crashes involving vehicles and snowplows.

Tips to Stay safe around snowplows

Recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Transportation  for safe driving around snowplows:

• Stay alert for snowplows, which turn or exit frequently and often with little warning. They also may travel over centerlines or partially in traffic to further improve road conditions.

• Stay back at least 10 car lengths behind the plow. Don’t drive into a snow cloud.

• Slow down to a safe speed for current conditions.

• Turn on your headlights and wear your seat belt.

• Turn off the cruise control.

• Be patient and remember snowplows are working to improve road conditions for your trip.

•Don’t drive distracted.