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Greg Peck: It's Snowplow Driver Appreciation Day in Wisconsin

By Greg Peck
November 20, 2014

We know what you're thinking. Plow drivers have frustrated you through the years. If you live in the country, plows may have knocked over your mailbox year after year. If you live in the city, it seems that so often you just finished shoveling or snowblowing and along comes the plow to bury the end of your driveway. If you live on a side street, you might wait all day for a plow to arrive, and when one does, the snow and ice don't get removed completely.

Gov. Scott Walker has proclaimed today, Nov. 20, as Snowplow Driver Appreciation Day in Wisconsin. His proclamation highlights the important role plow operators play in keeping people and commerce moving during winter. It also asks motorists to be cautious when they encounter plows and to limit driving during severe storms to avoid becoming stranded and impeding snow-removal efforts.

“When Wisconsin's weather is at its worst, our snowplow operators are at their best, often working long hours in challenging conditions to keep roadways open for commuters and commerce,” state Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb said in a news release. “Our department has a long-standing and valued partnership with county and municipal highway departments to keep our state highway system free of snow and ice.”

Plow operators aren't magicians. They can't avoid plowing snow into driveways. They must get up to speed to properly push wet, heavy snow, and some of it will wind up in your driveway or perhaps take out your mailbox.

It's not the plow drivers' fault when a city narrows its terraces so much that plows push chunks of frozen snow clear onto sidewalks that residents have already shoveled.

As Gottlieb suggests, plow drivers can be called in at a moment's notice, be it 4 a.m. or a holiday. They might fight to stay awake after many hours behind the wheel. They naturally must clear heavily traveled streets first, and they'll get to side streets as soon as time and conditions allow and supervisors direct.

Whether your street gets completely cleared and how quickly can depend on expensive personnel and equipment, the frequency of storms in a given winter and how bad these might squeeze budget allocations.

People who leave cars parked in streets hinder plowing. Further complicating the task is that many drivers are impatient and risk accidents trying to get around plows. That can happen despite the fact state law requires you to stay at least 200 feet behind a plow.

The DOT offers more winter driving tips:

-- Before traveling, call 511 or go online to Wisconsin 511 to check road conditions.

-- If there's ice and snow, take it slow. Posted speed limits apply when travel conditions are ideal, and such speeds might be hazardous when roads are slick or visibility is reduced. Most winter crashes are caused by drivers going too fast for conditions.

-- When travel conditions become especially hazardous, postpone or cancel your trip.

-- Besides staying 200 feet behind a working plow, make sure you can see the plow's mirrors to ensure the driver can see you. If you must pass, be careful. Snowplows often create clouds of snow that can obscure vision. Remember that road conditions in front of the plow will likely be worse.

-- As always, buckle up, pay attention to traffic and road conditions, slow down and drive sober.

If you know a plow driver, be sure to thank him or her today, or sometime this season.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or [email protected]. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.