Earlier this month, snowplow drivers for the South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT) took to the obstacle course as part of the Annual State Snowfighter's ROADeo in Pierre.
In the competition, drivers must maneuver the plows around obstacles that simulate parked cars, sharp turns and other real-world situations. The winner is determined by the total points earned for completing each challenge.
This year's title went to Kathy Brown of Kadoka. Brown, who has made it to the state finals eight times, has placed first and third in previous years. In true rodeo tradition, she was awarded a belt buckle for her win.
Snowfighter's ROADeos are held every fall in each of the state's four regions. The top drivers then compete for the state title. The ROADeos also include training sessions and safety classes, from mowing safety to equipment inspection to employee health screenings.
The SDDOT also reminds drivers to be aware of snowplows on the road this winter and to give them plenty of room to operate.
"The plows are providing an important public service and are clearing the roads as quickly as possible," says Darin Bergquist, SDDOT's Director of Operations. "For the safety of the public and our drivers, please don't crowd the plow."
Bergquist says plows travel at about 25 mph and asks drivers to be patient if they find themselves behind one. Snowplow operators need to concentrate on their task and the road conditions in front of them, so they may not spot a vehicle trying to pass. Blowing snow around the trucks may reduce visibility, so drivers shouldn't pass unless they can be sure the oncoming roadway is clear of vehicles and drifts.
He also reminds drivers to check road conditions before heading out. Road conditions, weather reports and forecasts are available online by visiting sddot.com or SafeTravelUSA.com. Drivers can also access the free service by calling 511 from any cell phone or landline.