Snowplows are enjoying a rare moment in the news spotlight for all the wrong reasons. On New Year’s Day 2023, news broke that Avengers and Hurt Locker actor Jeremy Renner had been run over by a snowplow near his Reno, Nevada home and was in critical condition. Mr. Renner suffered over thirty broken bones and a collapsed lung. Even more bizarre was that the snowplow in question, a PistenBully SnoCat weighing roughly seven tons, was Mr. Renner’s personal property. His injuries were sustained while helping a relative rescue their stranded car from a snow bank. Mr. Renner’s condition has stabilized and he is on the road to recovery. But his unfortunate accident has gotten us thinking about snowplow safety.
The vast majority of us will obviously never own our own snowplow, but they’re ubiquitous as a public utility. Most municipalities that experience regular snowfall in the winter months have snow removal protocols. This is often coordinated by the Department of Public Works or an equivalent agency, though it’s fairly common for private snow-removal firms to aid government efforts in extreme cases. Snow-removal vehicles can take a variety of shapes. These may include:
You may want to seek information on your municipal snow removal procedures. This will inform you of when to expect plows in your neighborhood in the event of severe winter weather. Additionally, it will also make you aware of the variety and number of snow removal vehicles operating in your area.
The first and most obvious piece of advice anyone can give regarding snowplow safety is to stay off the roads entirely when the weather is severe enough to necessitate their use. If snowplows are out, it means the roads are hazardous enough to warrant it. But staying home is simply not an option sometimes. Here are some things to keep in mind if you encounter a snow plow on the roads.
Snowplows generally travel slower than traffic, especially on highways. This may cause impatient drivers to attempt to pass the plow. While not illegal, this is still a bad idea for many reasons. The first one is that road conditions will always be worse in front of the plow than behind it. Even if you pass the plow safely, it’s more likely that your vehicle will become stuck or suffer an accident on unplowed roads.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the plow apparatus itself is generally slanted to push snow onto the shoulder of the road. Motorists passing too close may find themselves unexpectedly clipping the edge of the plow. This could push them into a snow bank or, worse yet, into oncoming traffic. It’s important as well to note that snowplow drivers themselves work long shifts during periods of extended snowplow. This, coupled with the reduced visibility brought on by snowfall, can mean plow operators don’t even detect cars that are ranging too close until it’s too late.
In summary, the safest course of action is to follow the path cleared by a plow. But drivers should maintain a safe and reasonable distance. Crowding the plow could lead you to a rear-end accident in the case of a sudden stop. Passing it presents far more risks than potential benefits. Even if you don’t suffer a serious accident, failing to keep distance from a snowplow can result in damage to your car’s body, paint, and undercarriage due to grit and salt spread on the roads behind plows to prevent re-freezing.
Malloy Law Offices would like to wish Jeremy Renner a speedy and complete recovery. It’s our sincere hope that his misfortune serves as a reminder to the public at large that snowplows and other heavy machinery should be treated with the utmost care. Even if they’re operated with the best intentions and in accordance with the law, even a small lapse in judgment can mean serious injury. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a snowplow or other municipal vehicle, contact Malloy Law Offices today. Our legal team will evaluate your case free of charge and suggest the best course of action.