Irony, karma or a lesson learned?

An issue that arises from time to time here in the prairies is over-plowing the roads.
The snow plows sometimes push the snow back past the shoulder of the road.
When the road is covered with ice and packed snow, it is impossible to see where the road shoulder is.
Imagine dropping the wheels on the right side of your vehicle down off of the highway shoulder. A good driver will often be able to recover but there is no guarantee. An added challenge in winter is recovering in such a way that your vehicle doesn’t shoot across the road on the ice and run off of the far side of the road.
A number of years ago, driving north of the Arctic Divide, I passed two B-trains (semi-trailer trucks or artic’s, with two trailers) stuck due to an over-plowed road.
Yesterday, on the way into the city, I saw it again; An over-plowed road and a large dump truck rolled down the embankment.
Sweet irony. It was a highways department plow equipped truck.
On of the crew that was responsible for over-plowing.
Looking for the silver lining, one can hope that this may be a strong incentive for the supervisors to take a harder line on the dangers of over-plowing.
Losing one of their own trucks may have more effect on supervision than complaints from a dozen commercial carriers.
Disclaimer: From the tire tracks, and from the distance from when the wheels started to drop to the final resting place, it is reasonable to infer that the truck was not moving at speed, but was pulling over to park and was moving very slowly. If the driver was wearing his seat belt he should have been in no danger of injury until he released his seat belt.

Interesting. I’ve rarely experienced that much snow in North Carolina. Once as a kid of about 8 years old (1965-ish) we had about a foot of snow. My brother (9.5 years old) and I decided to hide behind some trees and throw snowballs at passing cars. That is, until we hit Ms. Evelyn Williams 1965 green Chevrolet Impala. She was about 45 years old then, and she chased us down and took us to the house! I guess her car was brand new; that’s why she was so mad. No damage was done, but our Mom was not happy. Then we heard the worst 6 words in the world, “go get me a hickory switch”! Mom lit up our bottoms right in front of Ms. Evelyn, because she was kin folk.

We never did that again! Another lesson learned, the hard way.

Yeah, seen it out here in the Pacific NW too. Also under-plowing: say a tree drops on the road due to the snow load. Plow could stop and cut the tree, move it out of the way, but often they just drive around it, leaving a narrow strip (maybe 1.5 lanes on a 2 lane road). Same with parked/abandoned cars. People with low experience or high level of trust in the DOT drive on the nicely plowed and sanded road at regular speeds, round the curve and - “Hey there’s a tree (car, whatever) in my way!”. Driving too fast for conditions, they end up in the ditch or on top of the obstruction. Have seen many accidents from such.

Serious question, because my only snow plowing experience is at the wheel of a lawn tractor: How does the plow operator know where the road edge is, in order to avoid overplowing? A rear mounted camera, to see the lane lines in the cleared road surface?

On mountain passes here in Washington state, the road edges are marked by approx. 9-foot high fiberglass rods, so the plow operators can see where they are supposed to stop plowing. There are places and times when the markers are fully buried in snow (12 foot high banks not uncommon near the summits) and they just go by the embankments after that, or bring in front end loaders to clear the banks over the cliff side, and reset the markers (usually only if the avalanche barrier swales get full).

Here they have rumble bars on the sides of the roads, and sometimes in the middle of two lane roads. So when if the road is snow packed, you know if you are in the middle or on the side.
What I hate (and sort of like) is the grooved roads (mostly interstates) where it feels like to car is following the groves and not the lane.

I knew some snow plow drivers in the Yukon Territory. The winter driving conditions in the Yukon are similar to Alaska, but often colder.
The highways were gravel.
With the first serious snowfall of the year, the #1 driver would do the first plowing.
He would plow in such a way that there was a windrow of frozen snow along the edge of the road way.
The drivers would then use the frozen windrow to guide the edge of their plows until spring.
At times, the snow would build up and have to be pushed back from the edge of the roadway.
This would be done with a “wing"or side mounted blade. The side wing would be set 8” or so higher so as to leave the windrow in place and sort of a sidewalk effect on the over-plowed area.
At 60 mph, the draft of passing traffic will often keep the roads clear of snow.
At slower speeds, the snow tends to stay on the road and get packed down into ice.
The accident happened in a 40 mph zone where the snow had built up and packed. Farther down the road, in the 60 mph zone the road was mostly clear of snow.

Hmmm, I usually think it’s the opposite, i.e., the road is under-plowed; typically, on US 50, the plowing is about 1.9 lanes out of 2, so yes shoulder is hidden, but hidden under a ridge of plowed snow, and the right lane isn’t fully wide enough for its usual traffic.

This is yet another area where the Goldilock’s principle and the “dialectical three” is coming into play; over-plowed and it’s hazards beyond the edge, under-plowed and it’s restrictiveness, and plowed . . . “just right”.

Similarly, my Dad told me and I tell my kids, a long, prosperous, healthy life depends not only on doing the right thing when one has a choice, but it depends on not doing the wrong thing when one has a choice. At first, you use your instincts, up-bringing, and conscience to be your guide, and later, this yields to your experience and wisdom. Watch out for temptation and immediate gratification! They are the path to your downfall.

So, even if the road is plowed just right, it may still be treacherous, just as I learned back in the early '80’s. The wife and I were living in WV and going to NC for the holidays. We were going up a grade on I-77 S. near Fancy Gap, VA. I was trying to go too fast and was maintaining too much torque to the wheels going uphill so I didn’t lose momentum. Unwise!
The road was straight, freshly plowed just right, but it was snowing hard. We spun out, went round and round in the road a couple times, and I brought it under control going the right direction and still on the road! Luckily, there was hardly any traffic. So, at the next exit, we got a hotel, and waited until the next day to resume the journey under better conditions, at a more relaxed, and safe, pace.

I live in an area where the snow does not accumulate all Winter, so the plowed snow seem to end up on the shoulders. The plow also puts down MgCl when it is not too cold, and if it is too cold just puts down sand (the same truck can’t do both).
The problem is with a military base nearby, we see people from warmer climates who don’t understand you need to slow down for icy roads.
Our comments are like, nothing scarier than a jeep with a Florida tag.

Yep, I resembled that remark.

As I lived and got more experience (lived in New Jersey 1983-1988 and Michigan 2001-2006), I eventually became more wise about driving in the snow. But, in the WV years, 1979-1983, and as @dik says, "I was 10 feet tall and bullet-proof.

I put dents in more than one car learning to drive in snow as a youth. And learning to drive in general. My Dad’s attitude was “that’s how you learn”. Which is true…but, all of my sons had skid training in driver’s ed classes, it was an extra $80 or so, but well worth it. No serious accidents for any of them so far (knock wood).

Another thing that has become uncommon, apparently, is having a set of tire chains in vehicles being driven on or into snowy conditions.

I noticed that driver training is different when my daughter took it, then when I did.
I took driver training in high school, and we lived within 20 miles of a teaching college. So we used there skid pad for training, as well as there simulators.
My daughter did not have the option of school taught drivers ed. (we live in a different state than when I grew up). The training was in a converted gas station near the DMV. The driving teacher was this nervous older dude.

They over-plow on purpose here. The biggest hazard is often snow drifting across highways (both during and after the initial storm). Over-plowing the snow well off the shoulder helps keep these drifts on the shoulder and off of the main road.

Years ago, it was recommended that farmers plant hedge rows to slow down wind erosion. The effect was that snow would develop on the roads between the hedge rows. Once plowed, they would rarely snow blow over. The hedge rows also provided fire wood and natural havens for birds and deer.

Now it is being recommended that farmers cut those down and plant the whole field with crops. And in addition we see some crops grown in excess, so we are paying farmers to not farm.

What have we learned?

Here they often plow the upper part of the embankments. That way you can see where the shoulder ends and the ground drops away.
By over plowing I mean pushing the snow flat out past the edge of the shoulder.
What looks like a wide road is not as wide as it looks. The last foot or so is a trap.



It’s sort of hard to plow past the shoulder here, because of the reflector poles on the side of the shoulder.
In a few places the guard rails also limit how far past the edge can be plowed…

In the mountain passes here, the edge of the road gets kinda steep.