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Winter Safety Tips

Snow plow road safety tips

When the snow falls, City crews immediately start clearing the way for you. With such a large network of roads, clearing snow from City streets requires collaboration and support from staff and residents. Residents can help make the process safer for everyone. One way to help is to please slow down and let snow plow operators lead the way when you see a blue light. Below are some additional tips that you can follow to make our roads safe and clear of snow. 

  • Be patient and keep a safe distance behind working snow plows.  Snow plows often travel slowly because they are removing snow, and or spreading salt or sand on the roadway.
  • Never pass a snow plow.  Snow plows are wider than the average vehicle with large blades that extend a metre or more ahead and into the neighbouring lane. Passing a snow plow on the right could result in severe collisions. 
  • Don’t drive beside snow plows.  Snow plows sometimes shift sideways when they are plowing packed snow or drifts which could put you at risk for a collision. 
  • Move aside. Snow plows often drive along the centre line of a roadway to remove snow.  If you are approaching a snow plow from the opposite direction, shift right, if conditions allow, to ensure there is enough space for the plow to pass you safely. 
  • Beware of reduced visibility. Even at reduced plowing speeds, a light powdery snow forms a cloud in the wake of a snow plow that severely restricts a driver’s visibility.  This makes passing extremely dangerous. 
  • Do not pass between snow plows in tandem.  On multi-lane roads snow plows often work in tandem - a row of plows working side-by side.  Passing or weaving between these plows is dangerous.  Please stay well back of echelon plows. 
  • Watch for snow plows on sunny days.  Snow plows and removal equipment are out for several hours and even days after a storm clearing shoulders and cutting back snow banks.  Please be aware of plows even on clear days. 
  • Teach children to play away from the road.  The driver of a snow plow may not be able to see a child playing in the snow. 
  • Children should never build snow forts or tunnels along the roadway.  Snow forts and tunnels may collapse or be pushed down by snow plows or removal equipment. 
  • Pedestrians should ensure they are visible.  Pedestrians should move back from the road if they see or hear a snow plow approaching.

Salt and sand

The City applies dry salt, wet salt, sand salt mix, liquid brine and abrasive materials on streets. Salt is spread early during a snowstorm to make a brine solution that prevents the ice from sticking to the asphalt.

To minimize salt use, rock salt is sprayed with a liquid de-icer as it is spread. This speeds up ice melting by making the salt sticky so it can adhere to the road.

Abrasive materials such as sand are used to increase traction in colder temperatures when salt is not effective.

Snow removal and disposal

The City aims to distribute snow on both sides of the road. Snow banks are removed or reduced in size when they begin to restrict sightlines, travel widths, and pedestrian and cycling traffic. Snow banks that restrict sightlines at intersections and at pedestrian, school and railway crossings are removed within 24 hours after crews are made aware of the situation. If weather permits, snow banks are pushed back to curbs to provide more driving width on the roads and to make space to store snow.

The City’s snow disposal facilities do not accept snow from private operators. To find private snow disposal facilities, consult the Yellow Pages, Greater Ottawa Truckers Association or Ottawa Construction Association.