White, fluffy snow. Beautiful and fun. Northern Minnesota residents live in one of the most wonderful places when it comes to winter fun. There is downhill skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and snowmobiling, just to name a few.
But when the snow comes down as hard and heavy as it did during the Christmas holiday, it can make for some treacherous traveling by car. In some areas of the Northland, more than a foot of snowfall during the Christmas weekend.
Blackduck city workers and county snowplow crews were out for more than 30 hours during the weekend while the city of Bemidji logged about 25 hours of overtime per person because of the holiday. MnDOT was also out in force with more trucks out statewide during the holiday weekend than ever before.
The volume of snow can cause problems for area drivers and while the snowplow operators work, sometimes around the clock, clearing the roads, private snowplow operators take care of things closer to home.
While these operators make life easier for everyone who is snowbound, they can cause some major problems for city, county and state operators with the way they are clearing private driveways and businesses. Also causing more problems are private homeowners within the city limits clearing driveways.
The average homeowner probably doesn't realize how they clear their driveway affects the city and/or county snowplow operators and they should realize that if they push the snow across the road, lane, highway or city street, it is illegal in the state of Minnesota.
While clearing your driveway isn't a crime, the way you clear it can be. According the Minnesota Statute 160.2715, "(a) Except for the actions of the road authorities, their agents, employees, contractors, and utilities in carrying out their duties imposed by law or contract, and except as herein provided, it shall be unlawful to:
(1) obstruct any highway or deposit snow or ice thereon and (b) Any violation of this section is a misdemeanor."
This means, in laymen's terms, you can't push snow across the road or into the street to get it out of your driveway.
The law is very specific on this issue. You can get fined for pushing snow across the road -- be it state, county or city.
According to the MnDOT website, "Snow removal operators are advised not to push snow onto public roadways."
The Minnesota Department of Transportation reminds all snow removal operators that it is unlawful to deposit snow on or next to a public highway or street.
Minnesota law and many local ordinances prohibit the plowing, blowing, shoveling or otherwise placing of snow onto public roadways. This includes the ditch and right of way area along the roadside.
Violations are considered misdemeanors, but civil penalties also apply if the placement of snow creates a hazard such as a slippery area, frozen rut or bump that contributes to a motor vehicle or pedestrian crash. The civil liability can extend to both the property owner and the person who placed the snow.
Other hazards created by improper placement of snow on or near a public roadway include drainage problems, drifting, sight obstruction and safe accessibility. Special attention should be made to keep crosswalks, intersections, entrances and exits clean and unobstructed.
Beryl Wernberg, Beltrami County Emergency Management Director and 911 Supervisor, recently released a similar statement:
"The Beltrami County Sheriff's Office of Emergency Management reminds our citizens that plowing snow out of a yard and onto or across any public road or right of way is illegal (this applies to all city, township, county and state roads).
"With the advent of the recent snowfall, we want to assure that all are educated on the law pertaining to this. Minnesota Statute 160.2715 (a) (1) expressly forbids obstructing any highway or depositing snow or ice thereon. A violation of 160.2715 is a misdemeanor and as such is punishable by up to ninety days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.00 (the maximum possible punishment for a misdemeanor).
"Unsafe conditions for both drivers and public utilities attempting to clear roads as well as extra time and unnecessary expense are created by such actions. Please find a suitable location for snow within the confines of the property being cleared."
Beltrami County issues its own snowplow policy each year through the county highway department, complete with a graphic of proper snowplow procedures.
You can view the complete policy at the county's website: www.co.beltrami.mn.us/departments/highway/snowplowing. This will tell you what you need to know in regards to snowplowing as the county's policy on this issue.
For those who don't adhere to Minnesota's policy of pushing snow across the road -- remember one thing -- what you are doing is a misdemeanor and is punishable by jail time and a hefty fine.
The cities of Blackduck, Kelliher and Northome are no different when it comes to snowplowing policies. Don't push your snow into the roadway!
It may seem harmless enough but if you push snow across the roadway or street and it freezes, someone comes along and has an accident because of this, you could be held responsible which would result in much more than you bargained for.
So think before you push snow across the road, highway or street. What would be your reaction if one of your children hit an uneven patch of snow and ice that someone had carelessly left behind and had a fatal accident?
Before the unthinkable happens, know the laws and don't push snow into or across the roadway.