Winter road safety

Drivers should expect to encounter snow clearing equipment on the road after any snowfall or when snow and ice accumulations are high. Equipment operators are often working in unfavourable weather conditions to make roadways safer for Winnipeggers.

The flashing amber and blue safety lighting on snow clearing equipment is used to increase visibility and to warn motorists and pedestrians of on-going winter operations.

Road and sidewalk users are reminded to think safety first when in the vicinity of working heavy equipment. Plowing and sanding crews need room to do their work efficiently and effectively, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to Stay Back, Stay Safe.

Always remember to drive to winter conditions, be patient, allow additional travel time to get to your destination, and take alternate routes from equipment.

Winter road safety tips

Follow these tips when you encounter crews working to help ensure the safety of all road users.

  1. Slow down and keep well back from snow clearing equipment.
    The recommended distance is a minimum of 15 metres (approximately three car lengths).
  2. Stay back from spreader trucks
    When a spreader truck is applying salt or sand to the road surface, slow down and keep back from the truck to prevent your vehicle from being hit with salt or sand as it is being dispersed.
  3. Keep back and have headlights on at all times when travelling.
    Snow clearing equipment often produce clouds of snow that may reduce visibility.
  4. Be prepared to stop
    Snow clearing equipment travels at much slower speeds than other vehicles and operators also stop frequently to assess their work. Freshly plowed streets can also be slippery until sand/salt trucks have applied the appropriate material. Drive to conditions, and give yourself sufficient room to stop.
  5. Do not pass to the right of the equipment.
    Snow and debris are often plowed to the right.
  6. Be cautious when approaching snow clearing equipment from behind.
    Snow clearing equipment often makes several passes over the same area, which requires travelling in reverse. Vehicles travelling too close to equipment are at risk of damage or collision.
  7. Make eye contact
    If you are unsure of what a heavy equipment operator is about to do, wait and make eye contact with the operator. They may finish the task, or – if it is safe – stop and wave you through before continuing their work.
  8. Avoid driving through windrows
    Snow clearing equipment often makes several passes to clear a roadway. If you drive through a windrow, you may get stuck in the snow and ice, or scatter the snow and create a hazard for other motorists.

Additional snow safety tips

  • When possible, park vehicles off-street (in locations such as driveways and parking lots), as vehicles parked on the roadway can hinder the snow clearing process.
  • Teach children to stay back from roads and sidewalks when they see plowing equipment coming.
  • Portable basketball and hockey nets, skate board ramps and other structures should be removed away from the street to ensure plowing equipment can clear the area without causing damage.
  • Put away garbage and recycling carts and bins in a timely manner and store them in a location that will not interfere with snow clearing operations.
  • Keep privately owned trees trimmed back along streets.
  • Check the weather forecast before travelling.
  • Reduce speed: when road conditions are poor, it takes longer to stop.
  • When approaching railway crossings, turn off your radio and heating fans so you can listen for trains.
  • Look for railway warning signs and signals and remember that snow may cover train tracks at a crossing.
  • Use winter tires.
  • Do not drive impaired: exhaustion, alcohol, and drugs such as marijuana reduce your ability to pay attention, react quickly, and make safe driving choices.
  • Stalls or stuck vehicles must be left behind. Once safe, immediately notify emergency responders by calling 911.
  • Be rail-smart this winter: Stop. Look. Listen. Live.

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