This winter has been rough for some folks. In this case, we aren’t talking about massive amounts of snow or frigid temperatures. We’re talking about Ohio drivers, who, going by stats published by the Ohio Department of Transportation, are drawn to snow plows like Mustang drivers are drawn to burnouts at car shows.
ODOT Press Secretary Matt Bruning confirmed to Motor1 there have been 16 crashes between motorists and snow plows so far this season. Speaking to us about the situation, Bruning revealed the most recent crash didn’t lead to serious injuries. That’s the case for all of the collisions so far in the Buckeye state, but the frequency of crashes is alarming. There were 26 for the entire season last year; the weather’s been relatively mild this year and there are still a couple of months to go.
“We got to 16 quicker this year than last,” he said. “The first was on January 7 in Cleveland, a plow was sitting in the gore of the highway waiting for snow to start. A driver drifted off the side of the road and hit the plow.”
Crash number 15 was the incident that caught our attention. Shared on Facebook, ODOT says it was a case of distracted driving; no one suffered life-threatening injuries. The same cannot be said for the mangled Audi, identifiable to us only by the wheels. It’s a stark reminder that, when it comes to just about anything on four wheels versus a snow plow, the plow always wins.
“None of these plow strikes have resulted in very significant damage to our trucks,” said Bunting. “But it still takes time because we have to stop and call in law enforcement to complete a report. If there is enough damage, that plow has to go back to the shop and the driver jumps in a backup plow, or other drivers in the area adjust their route to cover. That means it’s going to take longer to clear the routes.”
And there’s plenty to cover. The state has approximately 43,000 lane miles to clear. ODOT maintains a fleet of 1,500 snow plows to manage all state and US routes outside local municipalities. The Ohio Turnpike has its own team, but there are still roughly 8,000 lane miles on interstates alone.
Of course, plow crashes certainly aren’t an Ohio-specific problem. A Subaru WRX was literally split in half by a plow after attempting a ridiculous pass in New York in January. But Bruning has spoken with transportation departments in other states and found they aren’t having quite the same issue with cars crashing into plows.
“The common factors we see are distraction, or unfortunately impairment; overnight it’s usually an impaired driver that hits us, and we’ve had a couple of those this year,” explained Bruning. “Or it’s just people driving too fast for conditions. They are paying attention. They see the plow, they want to go around the plow, and they think ‘I’ve got a 4WD vehicle, no problem.’ They get in that left lane or go to pass on a two-lane road, and they realize they’ve bitten off more than they can chew and lose control.”
With at least two months of potential winter activity still to come, Bruning hopes drivers in Ohio get the message that plows need space.
“The plow is 12 feet wide. The lane is 12 feet. A lot of the crashes are people either getting too close and hitting the plow, or rear-ending us. And it happens just as much on two lanes as on the interstate. When that plow is pushing snow, it’s going to create a snow cloud around the plow and visibility will be reduced the closer you get. They’re also dumping salt or brine out the back. I don’t understand why you’d want to get that close.”
Just give them some room,” he says. “Back off, stay several car lengths away.”