Snowplows get green light
| March 2, 2022 12:00 AM
As a result of legislation requested from the Montana Department of Transportation, House Bill 56 allowed the department to use alternate colored lights on their snowplows.
In the winter of 2020-21, 20 snowplows were hit while clearing and sanding our highways. So far this winter, 21 snowplows have been hit.
You may have noticed recently, green flashing lights are showing up on snowplows around the state. One hundred trucks have been fitted with these lights so far, starting with the newer trucks with the rest of the fleet to follow. The green light has been tested in other states and found to increase the visibility significantly when used in conjunction with the amber lights.
The use of these lights is for the safety of the plow drivers but actually has a much more significant impact on the vehicles that hit the plow trucks.
The average damage to the snowplow costs about $3,000 in repairs and also takes the plow out of service for often over a week, waiting for repairs. The cost to the vehicle that hits the plow is often in the five figures financially as well as a very high probability of personal injury.
To make the point of minimal damage to the plow truck but major damage to the vehicle hitting the plow, in my 28 years of driving a snowplow in the interstate, I was involved in two accidents. The first accident was on icy roads and the driver was going to fast and ran into my plow. It spilled my coffee and totaled his truck.
The next accident was in heavy snow and a fellow was driving too fast for poor visibility and ran into the rear of my plow truck. In the process his wife was following him too closely for the visibility and she ran into his SUV right after he hit me. The total cost for the repairs to their vehicles was $40,000 and it pushed my plow truck into the ditch and broke a $1.25 pipe fitting.
Please watch for these plow trucks with amber and amber/green lights and give them the space they need to do their job. They are trying to make your roads safer for you.
One more important piece of legislation passed this past session was House Bill 264 , the "MOVE OVER LAW".
This bill was a result of two tow truck drivers being killed while trying to recover a vehicle in snow near Columbus.
Near misses have been reported all around Montana by maintenance workers, law enforcement officers, EMTs, and other recovery drivers. This bill increased the fines for not slowing down, following flagging instructions or moving to the lane away from the emergency. It is committing the offense of reckless endangerment of emergency personnel. Keep in mind these are your friends, neighbors and relatives caring for you that you are showing respect for and possibly saving their lives.
Rep. Denley M. Loge, R-St. Regis