A Winter Reminder: Don’t Pass Snow Plows with Flashing Lights

YELLOW FLASHING LIGHTS on a plow truck means it's plowing or sanding-3

It’s early in the winter driving season, and we’re all getting used to the white stuff again, but we’ve had a couple incidents lately where travellers have tried to pass snow plows on the right hand side while the plows are actively working.

Don’t do this.

Not only is passing an active plow dangerous for you, it’s dangerous for the plow operators and drivers around you.

Coq Plow Off Road
Be patient. Snow plow operators will pull over and let you pass as soon as they can safely do so. Wondering how to tell if a plow is working? Look for the yellow flashing lights. If the plow has it’s lights on,  it’s hard at work plowing or sanding the road for you.

So hang back and sit tight. Following a plow during a winter storm event means the road ahead of you will be clear sailing. Any questions? Let us know in the comments below.

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Page 1 of 25 comments on “A Winter Reminder: Don’t Pass Snow Plows with Flashing Lights”

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  1. I want to purchase a used/retired “DO NOT PASS SNOWPLOW ON RIGHT” highway sign. Can’t find one anywhere, tho they’re abundant on Idaho highways, many in beat-up condition. Used traffic signs are readily available online, but I’ve never been able to find one of these. Any ideas?

  2. I have a question. If you catch up to a snow plow with its yellow lights on and the highway is twinned can you drive by it? Is the snow plow driver supposed to turn off its sander while you’re driving past it? This just happened to me. The plow truck just sandblasted my vehicle and broke my windshield. The road was a double lane and clear of traffic. I always thought that they were supposed to turn off the sander when a vehicle was driving by it. Was I misinformed or was this driver just a driver with an attitude?

    • Hi Doug – thanks for your question. We are sorry to say that you have been misinformed. When a plow has its lights flashing – do not pass it. It could have a side plow or be salting or sanding, as you discovered. When the plow turns off its lights and pulls over, you are free to pass.

  3. I honestly think there’s not enough training for many snow plow operators as many are part time on call. Sometimes they get the call on a snowy night and are rushed right out to work. I worked for YRB and although much of this seems like common sense it’s a little different in varying situations. On a straightaway when it’s obvious there’s nothing coming I’d simply signal and slow down a bit while cars pass. On many roads in the Kootenays there’s not always a convenient place to pull over to let a buildup of cars pass. Like I said…common sense and safety usually prevail. I’ve passed many a plow while working, but only when safe and I always flashed my lights before proceeding to do so, and NEVER on the right because that’s obviously idiotic. Many an operator will give a friendly wave as I pass.

  4. I had the good fortune to catch up to a plow on Highway 19 northbound a few days ago. As a result, my drive home was far less stressful than it might have been otherwise! Thanks to the crews who risk their own lives to make ours a little safer in adverse driving conditions. Cheers!

    • I’m Glad you think that way, I am a plow operator, and I usually get the finger and once a trucker who passed me pulled in front and nearly clipped my front plow, I sure on purpose to make me go off the road! The truck in the above picture was brand new, only been on the road a few weeks and was gone for nearly the rest of the winter. It was driven by a friend of mine, luckily no one was hurt!

  5. this is new technology and lots of folks do not know that there is a snow wing on the units and there is a need for TV media to tell travellers about the wings and the need to not pass on the RH side there is also a opportunity to mount a high visibility amber strobe lamp eleveted above the tip of the wing to alarm folks there is a lump in the snow in the snow cloud that they cam collide with

  6. Placing a flashing strobe amber lamp on the outter rh edge of the wing blade will give definition of the item in the lane where most snow low trucks have no wings new technology weds better awareness need a tv blurb

    • We have on our all our trucks a flashing (strobe) amber light, and it is not always enough, so this year we also added a lighted whip to further aid in making it visible!

  7. Hats off to the CRS crew near Tumbler Ridge BC! They’ve been doing an awesome
    Job this year, and I’m very thankful! I drive 200+k every work day and I definitely appreciate them putting themselves at risk for my safety! Thanks guys!

  8. This never occurred to me, but I see now why it’s such a dangerous thing to do. From now on I’ll definitely be careful and try to let the snow plow go to the side before passing. My only worry is if the person driving the snow plow doesn’t try to pull over at some point.

  9. I’ve never found myself behind a plow, but I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to pass them if they have their flashing lights on. It does make sense though, plus I wouldn’t want to get blasted by snow anyway. I didn’t know they will pull over to let you pass when they’re ready either. Thanks for the heads up!

  10. I fully understand the need to keep well back from a working plow. They have a tough job in trying conditions. But how about passing a plow on a straight section of highway travelling 15 km/hr below the posted limit, bare and dry roads, plow not plowing or sanding (no need for either), dotted line and no traffic coming? I’m sure there was a reason the plow was out but no obvious reason the lights were flashing. Was it just a coincidence that it was just when I was beside the plow that the operator turned on the left-mounted sander, pelting my car with rocks, and then turned it off as just as soon as I was past? This happened to me last winter on Hwy 3 between the Alberta border and Sparwood.

    • Hi Lou,

      Thanks for connecting with us. Unfortunately, we don’t know what happened in this instance. The plow operator could have been preparing to sand when you passed, turned on his machine and when he realized you were passing, turned the machine off?

  11. Makes sense, not passing on the right, but when a plow is SANDING, is it normal procedure to swerve and cut off a vehicle that attempts to pass the plow on a 2 lane highway? And then continue to swerve in and out of both lanes? This was my experience with the plowing contractor responsible for the area near Yahk on Hwy 3.

    • Hi Alex,

      Thanks for connecting with us and sharing your concern. We will share your comment forward with the local area manager for follow up. Passing a plow, even one that is sanding on a two lane highway, can be dangerous. When maintenance trucks are sanding their machinery is actively spinning and spraying. You could risk being struck by small pieces of aggregate which, if it hit your windshield and cracked it, could cause you to lose sight of the road. Our advice to you is to stay back and wait for the plow to pull over and allow you to pass.

  12. Sadly this is just not true when it comes to YRB in the Kootenays. In fact 2 weeks ago when we got our first snowfall, one (coming onto the highway from a side road)blew through a yield sign and came onto the highway going 30 km/hr right in front of me. I had to slow down from 70km/hr (the posted speed is 80km/hr) to 30 in less than a city block and almost got rear ended by the person behind me.