Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

News Release

March 1, 2019

MnDOT advises motorists to slow down, use caution while driving in west central Minnesota

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Transportation advises motorists to slow down and use extra caution during plowing and snow removal operations. Current road conditions throughout the region vary from partially to completely covered with snow. Even if roads look dry, snow clouds formed by snowplows and other heavy vehicles can create whiteout conditions.

“We’ve had four snowplows hit in west central Minnesota so far this winter and 73 statewide,” said Jeff Perkins, operations manager for MnDOT District 4 (west central Minnesota). “The main causes of these crashes are motorists driving too fast for conditions, driving too close to the plow and distracted driving. For everyone’s safety, motorists need to be patient and stay back from the plow.”

Snowplows typically travel much slower than the posted speeds, slowing down to approximately 30-40 mph even on the interstate. Plow operators have a restricted view from the plow cab, so they must rely on mirrors to see the rear and side of the truck. Their vision is also hampered by the snow clouds they create while they plow.

“The safest place to be is well behind the snowplow and away from the snow cloud it creates,” Perkins said. “When motorists encounter a snow cloud, it’s important to slow down and increase following distance to at least 10 car lengths.”

Minnesota law requires motorists to turn on their headlights when it’s snowing or at any other time when weather conditions impair visibility.

Other recommendations for safe driving around snowplows include:

  • Stay alert for snowplows, which turn or exit frequently and often with little warning. They also may travel over centerlines or partially in traffic to further improve road conditions.
  • Stay back at least 10 car lengths behind the plow. Don’t drive into a snow cloud.
  • Slow down to a safe speed for current conditions.
  • Turn on your headlights and wear your seat belt.
  • Turn off the cruise control.
  • Be patient and remember snowplows are working to improve road conditions for your trip.
  • Don’t drive distracted.

Motorists should check road conditions at 511mn.org.