As snow and ice made Vermont roads treacherous Tuesday, the agency in charge of maintaining state roads is pleading with the public to adjust their driving for winter conditions.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation said one of its plows was rear-ended Tuesday morning as it cleared snow on I-91 in Brattleboro. The crash was minor, an agency spokesman said, but it underscored a plea from plow drivers: “don’t crowd the plow.”
“Make sure you slow down,” added Todd Law, the VTrans state maintenance director.
Law said VTrans plows are involved in roughly a dozen or so crashes every season.
In many of those incidents, Law said, drivers tend to come up too quickly on slow-moving plow trucks, or whip around them trying to pass in the snow or ice.
“It really does make your hair stand on end,” Law said of a plow operator seeing in his or her mirrors a car approaching too quickly. “It puts the drivers on edge.”
Eager to change that behavior, the agency sponsored a public service announcement that is now running on Vermont television stations.
“It’s winter. It’s Vermont. Slow down, be patient, and don’t crowd the plow,” three VTrans plow drivers say in the video.
Earlier this month, in Utah, a terrifying collision involving a plow truck was caught on camera.
That state’s transportation department said a semi tried to pass a plow on the right, but clipped it. The resulting collision sent the plow across traffic and over an embankment.
The veteran plow operator was injured, Utah DOT said, but he is expected to recover.
Back in Vermont, VTrans recently announced the launch of a new tool on its website called the “plow finder.”
“People call us and ask, ‘Where are the plow trucks?’” Erik Filkorn of VTrans said. “People want to know the plow trucks are out.”
The plow finder tracks trucks using on-board GPS units. The goal is to provide drivers frequent updates on when state roads were last treated.
“It's just more information to help people make intelligent decisions about when and how they're going to travel,” Filkorn told necn.
More data is available on that VTrans portal called Winter Weather Central, including access to web cameras.
Filkorn said in time, he hopes the plow icons on the plow finder tool will also be able to convey information about any material the vehicles are spreading on the roads, as well as details on the surface temperatures at the locations where the plows are working.
Filkorn reminded drivers of Vermont’s law banning the use of handheld devices while driving, saying people should instead check the plow finder from home or have a passenger do it.