23 collisions in 2 months: Alberta operators urge caution near snow plows

The death of a driver who crashed head-on with another vehicle, while passing a plow near Bonnyville is prompting a warning from Alberta's snowplow operators.

"Drivers need to recognize the potentially devastating consequences of an impulse decision to pass or tailgate a snowplow," Jim Rivait, CEO of the Alberta Roadbuilders & Heavy Construction Association said in a news release on Friday.

"They put their own lives at risk and the safety of other drivers and snowplow operators."

'We've had some tragic situations'

The association, which represents contractors responsible for maintenance of Alberta's highways, is reminding drivers that passing or following too close behind winter maintenance gear is extremely risky.

Despite the hazards, there has been a string of recent near misses on Alberta highways. Association contractors have reported 23 collisions with plows so far this year.

"We're having a lot of operators see some very close calls and we've had some tragic situations," said Rivait. 

"It's just a reminder to folks out there, for every incident that gets reported there are dozens of near misses that could have easily been a similar tragedy." 

An impatient gamble 

A driver caused a head-on crash near Foremost by passing a highway plow on Wednesday. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries, said Rivait.

In central Alberta on Monday, two snowplows were rear-ended and one side-swiped, all within a three-hour span, said Rivait.

A pickup truck also crashed into the back of a plow on Highway 16 near Entwistle on Saturday. The pickup was totaled and the snow plow driver suffered minor injuries.

In Monday's crash north of Bonnyville, a pickup truck travelling west on Highway 660 attempted to pass a vehicle and a snow plow and then collided with an oncoming eastbound pickup truck.

The driver of the westbound truck was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the eastbound truck was taken to hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries.

"Operating a snowplow under extreme weather conditions is very challenging even without the hazard from impatient drivers who gamble that nobody is coming the other way when they pull out to pass," said Rivait. "The consequences can be quite serious."