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Is It Legal to Pass a Snowplow in Washington?


Being a mom with kids who are involved in several activities means that I do a lot of driving. Driving in crummy weather.

As I was making my third trip to Naches the other night to take my daughter to basketball practice, I encountered two snowplows doing their thing down Highway 12.

They weren’t side by side, but one was in the left-hand lane a little ahead of the other, which was in the right-hand lane.

Several cars in front of me were weaving in between the snowplows to pass both of them. That got me thinking, “Is it illegal to pass the snowplows?” If not, is there some snowplow etiquette we should follow?

Well, as it turns out, it’s legal to pass them — but you should follow some basic precautions when you encounter one in traffic. Here’s what the Washington State Department of Transportation has to say:

Snowplows are usually spreading anti-icing materials from the back of the truck and may need to stop or take evasive action to avoid stranded vehicles. If you find yourself behind a snowplow, stay behind it or use caution when passing. The road behind a snowplow will be safer to drive on.

  • Don’t crowd the plow. Snowplows plow far and wide-sometimes very wide. The front plow extends several feet in front of the truck and may cross the centerline and shoulders during plowing operations.
  • Plows turn and exit the road frequently. Give them plenty of room. Stay back at least 15 car lengths (200 feet).
  • On multiple-lane roads, watch for snowplows operating in either lane.
  • Snowplows can throw up a cloud of snow that can reduce your visibility to zero in less time than you can react. Drive smart. Never drive into a snow cloud — it could conceal a snowplow.
  • A snowplow operator’s field of vision is restricted. You may see them but they may not see you.

For more tips on winter driving, check the WSDOT website, 

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