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Snow plow/vehicle collisions becoming more frequent

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Courtesy/Washington State Department of Transportation
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Drivers attempting to pass snow plows cause many of the collisions.

Transportation agencies in Washington and Idaho report at least eight crashes this snow season in eastern Washington and north Idaho.

Snowplows are taking a beating this winter in Washington and Idaho.

The Idaho Department of Transportation reports 10 collisions so far between state plows and vehicles, including four in Kootenai County and three in the Coeur d’Alene area alone on Tuesday.

In eastern Washington, Department of Transportation spokesman Ryan Overton reports the average number of snowplow-related accidents each winter ranges from five to eight.

“We’re not even through December and we’ve already seen four, so this is kind of a significant increase in plow strikes, especially early on in the winter season," he said.

Overton worries the number will continue to rise unless drivers remember to drive with caution when they encounter snow and ice.

“Especially on curves," he said. "We’ve seen quite a few collisions around the Hamilton curves on I-90 [in Spokane] and people trying to change lanes. They’re in that turning movement as it is. There’s still compact snow and ice on the roadway. They lose control and they end up into the guardrail or into another vehicle."

"People just need to be mindful that, in these areas and, really, throughout the Inland Northwest, we just need to slow down."

Overton says, in the four Washington cases, the drivers who caused the collisions were ticketed. One was drunk. In that case, the plow driver sustained minor injuries and away from work for two days.

Some of the collisions require plows to be taken out of commission until they can be repaired, as was apparently the case with at least one accident in Kootenai County on Tuesday.

“It will, unfortunately, likely increase unless driver behavior changes drastically and we start getting public compliance of people who are slowing down for conditions, not following our plows too close and not trying to pass our plows as they treat and plow roadways," Overton said.

Transportation officials remind drivers never to pass a plow on the right side and not to drive in between two plows working in parallel lanes.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.