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Wisconsin is home to nearly 115,000 miles of roads. The snowy winters in Wisconsin mean long hours for snowplow drivers to keep those pathways clear for all of us.

Did you know the Wisconsin State Patrol has a Law of the Month? For December, the highlighted law serves as a reminder for every driver to give snowplows the proper space needed to effectively – and safely – clear the roadways of potentially dangerous snow and ice.

“The tireless work of these highway workers ensures safe driving conditions for all of us in winter,” says Anthony Burrell, State Patrol Superintendent. “Drivers should stay off the roads as much as possible when snow hasn’t been cleared yet and keep a safe distance when traveling near a plow.”

In the last decade alone (2010-2020), nearly 3,400 snowplow-involved crashes occurred. With careful driving, a majority of these could have been prevented. Instead, 533 people were injured and four people lost their lives due to these accidents.

The most common type of collision for a snowplow is being rear-ended by another vehicle; most likely because the driver was following too closely, and/or at too high of a rate of speed for weather conditions at the time of the crash.

State law requires drivers to stay at least 200 feet behind an actively working plow, whether it is removing ice and snow, or applying salt or sand to the roads and highways with a speed limit of 35 and over. On local roads with slower speed limits, drivers should stay 75 feet behind working plows.

Helpful winter driving tips from the Wisconsin State Patrol:

  • Snow means slow. Allow extra travel time, following distance, and reduce your speed during winter conditions.
  • Road conditions in front of a plow will likely be worse, but if you must pass, be careful. Plows often create a cloud of snow that can obscure vision.
  • Drivers who get stranded during a winter storm become hazards that interfere with snow removal efforts. If possible, stay off the roads during severe winter weather and wait until conditions improve.
  • If you must travel, check 511 for conditions or incidents along your route. Have a fully-charged phone and an emergency kit in your vehicle.
  • Buckle up and put your phone down while driving. Every trip, every time.