Everyone knows you should not pass a stopped school bus when its red lights are flashing, and now that the snow is flying in the Twin Tiers, many people are wondering if they can pass a snow plow because they have flashing amber lights.

Is it legal to pass a snow plow? The simple answer is yes, you “can”, but why would you want to do it?

It’s not recommended for many reasons.

According to the New York State Department of Transportation, snow plow operators have trouble seeing motorists and pedestrians that are too close because their field of vision is limited by blind spots.


  • The wing blades of snow plows obscure side views.
  • The size and weight of snowplows make them difficult to maneuver or stop quickly, especially since the highway ahead of a plow often is slippery or snow-covered.

So give the plow operators plenty of room to do their job, and BE PATIENT.

About those flashing amber lights:

New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law requires that plows and other “hazard vehicles” have amber lights to warn motorists and pedestrians to expect the unexpected, and to stay clear of the plows and other vehicles.

DOT logoFor safety reasons, motorists and pedestrians should adhere to the following guidelines, according to NYSDOT:

  • Stay a safe distance away from snowplows. The safest place for motorists is well behind the snowplows where the road is clear and salted. The safest place for pedestrians is on the sidewalk, and in clear vision of the snowplow driver.
  • Never assume that a plow driver can see you.
  • Yield to a snowplow, giving the plow a wide berth with room to maneuver.
  • Beware of deicing materials that may be released from the plow and keep your distance from them.
  • Motorists should make sure to have clear vision ahead and that passing is permitted before attempting to pass a snowplow.
  • On two-lane roads where passing is not permitted, be patient.
  • Be mindful of where snowplows are on multi-lane highways. Watch for plows in travel lanes, on a shoulder or entering the road from a ramp or median turnaround. They also may need to back up, which may impede routine traffic flow.
  • After passing a snowplow, use caution when returning to the driving lane ahead of the plow. The plow blade extends several feet ahead of the truck.
  • Move as far away from the center line as safely possible when meeting a snowplow on a two-lane road coming from the opposite direction.
  • Watch for “white-outs” created by blowing snow coming off the snowplow blade.
  • Don’t travel beside a plow for sustained periods, especially when the plow is cutting through deep snow. Plows can be pushed sideways after hitting drifts or snow banks.

This blog post was adapted from a “Law Talk” segment with me during the WETM News at Noon on Jan. 7, 2015. Ziff Law Firm lawyers discuss legal issues in the news at 12:20 p.m. every Wednesday on Law Talk. Set your DVR to catch the five-minute segments each week!

Thanks for reading!



James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and