Local News

ODOT Urges Caution Around Snowplows

BEND, OR -- With a near-record number of people hitting the road for Christmas and the possibility of mountain snow Friday through the weekend, Oregon's Department of Transportation urges drivers to take it easy around snowplows.

"Almost every year, we have at least one or two crashes that occur from someone trying to be impatient and pass that snowplow," says ODOT's Mindy McCartt. She reminds drivers it’s illegal to pass a plow on the right in Oregon, "Because snowplows, especially on the right side of them, have these things that we call wings. They stick out more than 8’ from the right front edge of the truck." Those "wings" are part of the scoop pushing snow. "The snow being plowed off the roads can contain rocks and other debris that will damage your vehicle; let alone, the risk of all that snow blowing up into the air," says McCartt, "You can’t always see those wings. So the likelihood of you possibly hitting one or swerving around them when you do see them, you could run off the road." 

McCartt says passing on the left is also not recommended, "Only pass if the plow is not maybe in service. If it’s just getting to a location, you can obviously pass on the left." She tells KBND News, "Behind a snowplow is one of the safest places on the road. They’re chewing up all that ice and snow in front of you. So, be patient."

After warning budget cuts would reduce the amount of plows out this winter, ODOT received an influx of state money earlier this month. "So, with that, you’re going to see a level of service, just about at the same level as you did in years past," says McCartt. "ODOT workers do focus on those higher trafficked highways like I-5, 84, 26, 97 in Central Oregon. But with that increased maintenance budget, we are even looking at those little bit less-traveled highways and making sure they’re clear. But we’re out there. We’re out there, we’re watching, we’re paying attention."

She says the extra $19 million over two years will cover overtime shifts for plow drivers this winter. It also allowed ODOT to purchase a couple more plows. Although, McCartt says those won’t be in service until next winter.


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