Snow Plow Etiquette 101


My version of a plowing PSA — 9 basic rules of snow plow etiquette for any and all folks not currently operating a snow plow.


My husband and his friend ran a snow plow company for years. Now we just use one of the plows to take care of our own street and neighborhood as our way of pitching in and making sure we can always get out. After plowing with my husband and listening to him and his buddies swap stories and complain for a decade or so about some common plowing issues, it occurred to me that a lot of people honestly just haven’t ever stopped to think about things from the plow driver’s perspective. So this is my version of a plowing PSA — 9 basic rules of snow plow etiquette for any and all folks not currently operating a snow plow.

1. Be kind. Maybe you’ve been waiting a long time to see a snow plow on your street. When you see a plow finally making it’s way down your street, there is a HUMAN inside the plow. Your plow driver probably has barely slept or eaten in days. He or she is exhausted. It is not his or her fault that your street was not plowed sooner.

2. Get out of the way!!! Please do not stop, stare, gawk, stand around, or make it in any way more difficult for the plow to maneuver. You may not think you are in the way, but you are. The plow is unable to push snow or move anywhere where there are people. Furthermore, plows are operated by big trucks made that much longer by the giant plows on the front. They need room to make sharp turns and come at the snow from all available angles. It is also incredibly stressful when people are standing around because the driver must constantly watch the people while plowing – in order to make sure they are safe and stay out of the way. People outside of the plow have no idea which way the truck is going to go next. The truck could slide unexpectedly at any moment in directions that could not be predicted by the direction of its wheels. Spinning tires often send gravel, ice, and/or debris flying. Please stay away.

3. Keep your stuff out of the way. Especially if you know in advance that a storm is coming, get your stuff out of the way. Look at your street and/or driveway and ask yourself where a plow is likely and realistically going to need to pile snow. Do not park your car in that spot!! Do not leave your trash cans in the way. Do not leave shovels, sleds, pots, pans, hoses, dogs, or anything else in the way so that your plow driver is forced to exit the plow and move these thoughtlessly unattended obstacles.

4. Be realistic. The snow needs to go somewhere. There are going to be big piles. Get over it. Snow plow drivers do not have magic wands. Your car is still going to need to be shoveled out. There are places that the plow is not going to be able to access perfectly. Get a shovel. Have a plan.

5. Help. If you see a plow that gets stuck or looks like it obviously could use some assistance, help. Use your mind and figure out what you could do. Roll your sleeves up and get to work. Do not just stand around, drinking your latte, gawking, and snickering.

6. Be grateful. Be grateful in general and also make no assumptions about your plow driver and whether or not you are entitled to their labors because you pay taxes. For example, if you live on a private street with no HOA, and you see the same plow guy come down your street in every storm and clear the whole road, that plow is driven by one of your NEIGHBORS or another kind soul that just decided to help you out – out of the goodness of their heart. Please take the time to tell them “thank you”.

7. Be respectful. Plowing is incredibly hard work. The insurance cost for plow companies is obscene. The wear and tear on the trucks is incredible. Purchasing and maintaining a functioning plow for your vehicle is extremely time-consuming and costly. And again, the people who drive the plows are humans. Many of them are highly-skilled in any number of professions and make a generous choice to help out during storms. Sure, the pay can be good, but it’s a gamble and the sacrifices and dangers are considerable.

8. Thank the plow families too. Lots of the plow drivers have families at home who fend for themselves and barely see their significant others for days and weeks at a time during extremely severe weather. Like so many families of healthcare professionals and emergency workers, the plow drivers have families who silently make sacrifices so that their loved ones can be heroes. If you know such a family, check in on them and offer to pitch in if they need it.

9. Let the plow work. Do not, under any circumstances, tell the plow to come back later because you are sledding, napping, building a fort, or whatever else you are doing that you think comes before the safety of your home and neighborhood. Many reasonable people might wonder if this rule really needs to be included, but, sadly, it happens absurdly too often. So if you see your child or anyone else tell a plow to come back later, please let them know they are not smart. And have fun waiting for that plow to come back.

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