As of April 1st, Montana has spent $29 million dollars in snow plowing expenses out of its $135 million dollar maintenance budget. This is roughly a 30% increase compared to last year's total of $2.3 million.
While this number may seem high, this doesn't even include the amount that is going toward snow plow repairs.
40 plows have been hit by other drivers this year alone, while last year the accidents remained in the low 30’s.
Here in Great Falls, we’ve had 1 plow hit this year compared to 4 from last year.
This is partially due to the increase in the amount of time plows have spent on the roadways as a result of a heavier snow season, but also due to unsafe driving habits by other vehicles.
Fixing a plow can run anywhere from $1,000-$100,000 depending on the damage. At this point, it’s too early to tell how much the total repair cost will be for the season; especially with 2 more snow plows hit just last weekend.
According to Brandi Hamilton, from the Montana Department of Transportation Maintenance Division, there are several ways we can help to avoid hitting snow plows.
• Give them plenty of room to work. The suggested amount of space is about 5 car lengths.
• Do not pass in a no passing zone.
• Don’t drive through a snow cloud around the plow.
• Maintain good visibility.
• Be an observant driver (especially on left handed turns).
The maintenance division runs a total of 600 plows across the Big Sky state and covers 25,000 miles of road. To put that in perspective, that’s about one time around the Earth’s equator!
With plows off the roads due to maintenance, this puts a strain on other snow plows to keep up with the high demand. As a result, our roadways aren’t cleared, which creates other dangerous situations.
“Those few minutes you follow could save your life or someone else’s,” says Hamilton.
As always, drive safely and be respectful of the snow plows. After all, they’re working to keep you safe. We don’t need to add to the bill any more than Mother Nature already has.