It goes without saying that Wyoming winters demand more caution and attention when driving, either in town or on the highway, but the Wyoming Department of Transportation has reason to emphasize the need for safe driving near its snowplows after recent crashes.

Two WYDOT snowplows were hit during the month of December, with the most recent wreck having occurred Dec. 14 on I-25 north of Cheyenne. The crash damaged the box that holds the sand; the plow truck was out of commission for half a day.

Ten days earlier, on Dec. 4, a driver hit the rear of a WYDOT snowplow on I-80 near Rock Springs. The snowplow suffered similar damage and missed about the same amount of time. The plow truck had been clearing the left lane on the westbound side, and was traveling roughly 25 mph when it was hit, WYDOT says in a news release.

No one was hurt in either crash. The two December collisions bring the number of snowplow-involved crashes to four for 2017.

WYDOT says its figures show an average of 5.6 snowplow trucks are hit each year.

"We want motorists to be safe when they're heading out to their destinations so we always want them to drive cautiously," Mark Gillett, assistant chief engineer of operations, said in a statement. "But they also need to be extra cautious during the winter months when there's ice and snow."

"They need to be alert for slow-moving snowplows, which are out clearing the roads and making travel safe for all motorists," Gillett said.

Depending on conditions, snowplows travel at 25-45 mph. Other drivers should stay a safe distance behind the plow until it's safe to pass, WYDOT says.

"A 12-foot plow can create a pretty good fog of snow," GIllett said. "If a motorist is coming up behind a cloud of snow, they shouldn't just drive into it because there may be a snowplow in there. If motorists see something like that they need to stay back. They should wait until they can see the truck and then cautiously pass if they need to."

In addition to the potential for injury in any crash, hitting a plow can hurt WYDOT's ability to clear snow and ice from the roads. That can mean more treacherous travel for other motorists.

"We're urging motorists to be patient when driving in wintry conditions," GIllett said. "Our snowplow drivers are out there working hard to clear the roads and make them safe for motorists to get to their destinations."

As always, check or WYDOT's 511 app for smartphones to find the latest road conditions across Wyoming.

When it comes to winter driving in Wyoming, particularly on the highways, it can't hurt to have an emergency kit and make sure tires are in good shape before hitting the road.

When road conditions are less than ideal, it's wise to build extra travel time into the schedule. Drivers are also advised to let someone know where they're going before heading out.

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