Snow plow operators are asking for help from drivers after a number of near-misses already this winter.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation says driving near snow plows requires care and patience, and snow plow drivers are reporting risky behavior this winter. That includes passing the WYDOT'S new tow plow in Fremont County, passing other trucks, and tailgating. WYDOT officials say drivers need to give the plows room to operate.

"Stay well back from operating snow plows," said WYDOT District Maintenance Engineer Lyle Lamb of Basin. "They are spreading sand and anti-icing and de-icing chemicals on the roadway. It's always a good idea to stay back from snow plows while their operators are doing their jobs."

Lamb says so far, the deep snow hasn't reached the Wyoming's northwest valleys. "Our guys have been out there spreading sand and using salt brine to break up ice," he says.  "Please drive on the areas where sand the chemicals are being applied. This driving behavior helps break up the snow and ice. Please understand what our guys are doing, and please, don't pass the plows."

With limited visibility, snow plow drivers can't see vehicles behind them if the vehicles are too close to the plows. In other words, if you can't see the plow driver's mirrors, he or she can't see you.

"Remember, the safest driving surface is behind the plow. If you must pass, don't pass on the right into the plume of snow being moved," Lamb says. "Be sure on two-lane highways that you have plenty of time to pass. Keep a close watch, these huge plows often stir up their own whiteout conditions while doing their work."

Lamb said the tow plow is a trailer mounted, 26-foot plow that is towed behind a 10-wheeled plow truck. It can take the place of another plow truck by allowing one truck to plow two lanes of roadway, or a single lane of roadway and an eight-foot shoulder.

"The tow plow does the work of two trucks, and it has proven effective in Fremont County. The problem we've had early this winter is citizens passing the tow plow while it's operating," Lamb said. "Our drivers have even reported citizens passing the tow plow on the right side of the highway while it's discharging snow from two lanes of highway in the same direction. It's unsafe and could result in a costly crash where someone could be seriously injured, or worse yet, the person could die."