Winter Recommendations and Laws - Plow Operations

We are sending this request out to all of you in hopes it will prevent issues that are occurring throughout southeastern Wisconsin during this winter season.  Agencies responsible for plowing operations are seeing a rise in crashes with plows and private vehicles during plowing operations.  Here in Cudahy we may average 1 every 3 years and that is typically when a wing plow gets too close to a parked car.  This past event we had 2 incidents that involved moving vehicles that did not yield or keep a safe distance to a maintenance vehicle during plowing operations.  We train and test our crews annually each year but there are inherent issues that come with plowing.   Unfortunately the plow driver is always at fault because they are either backing up or trying to get snow through an intersection.  DPW does not have the same “rights” as other emergency vehicles and all laws apply.  Not sure if people are aware but 2 incidents like this could result in a loss of a plow driver’s CDL and their ability to work as a DPW employee anywhere.  This is preventable if we use due care around someone who is plowing – whether it’s a street, freeway or parking lot.  Here are a couple recommendations and some are even law:

  • Wisconsin State 346.915. An operator of any vehicle that is not a snowplow may not follow a snowplow closer than 200’ (10 car lengths) on a roadway having a speed limit of more than 35 miles per hour. That would be Pennsylvania Avenue here in Cudahy and the freeway system.  75’ (4 car lengths) on any roadway having a speed limit less than 35 miles per hour.  That is nearly everywhere in Cudahy.  Although it is illegal to be closer than 20’ from a stopped plow –We recommend this rule of thumb:  Stop behind the truck at a point where you can see the plow driver in his/her side mirror.  Plow drivers cannot see what’s behind them and back-up cameras do not work on pick-ups or large plow trucks during most maintenance operations.  That’s why we have that annoying backup beeper.
  • If you are in a parking lot and there is someone plowing – leave 100 feet between you and the plowing vehicle and keep your eyes on the plow truck at all times. If they are backing up towards you flash your bright lights and lay on the horn.
  • If you have to pass a plow truck – keep a wide distance from the plow blade and do not get into the same lane as the plow until there is at least 200’ (10 car lengths) between you and the plow truck, and certainly don’t make a right turn immediately after you pass the truck. Big plow trucks take a long time to stop.
  • Lastly – at intersections (namely residential type) – go slow and be prepared to stop if you see a plow truck approaching – even if you have the right of way. It is very difficult during a plowing operation for the driver to judge where the plow is relative to the intersection or to even stop.


Thank You and drive safe.