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A video shows a semitruck sideswiping a snowplow in Spanish Fork Canyon, forcing it across oncoming traffic and over a 300-foot embankment. State highway officials hope it will finally convince more drivers not to try to pass plows.
Terry Jacobson, a state snowplow driver for 23 years, was driving his rig on U.S. 6 Thursday just before noon.
"A semi truck decided to pass him on the right-hand side. That truck clipped the plow, and sent the plow across oncoming traffic," narrowly missing potential head-on crashes, said Carlos Braceras, executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation.
"He went through the guardrail," he said. "And then it went down 300 feet of embankment, rolling several times."
Jacobson who was wearing a seat belt survived, but remained hospitalized Friday with serious injuries that were not considered life-threatening. A car traveling in the opposite direction caught the accident on video from a dash camera, video which UDOT distributed Friday.
"When you see the video, it's very violent," said Neil Lundell, a snowplow supervisor. He talked to Jacobson on Friday, and "he doesn't remember very much, other than going through the rail and rolling down the hill."
UDOT constantly asks drivers not to pass snowplows, but is frequently ignored, Lundell said. Jacobson's accident was the fourth time this winter that cars have hit snowplows while trying to pass them.
"All of our drivers know this. It's not a matter of if you're going to get in an accident, it's a matter of when. I've been in a few myself with the same scenario," he said.
"With this accident, It's proof what our message is: Don't pass us. Just stay behind us. Even though you're late, it doesn't matter," he said. "It's safer behind us."
Braceras said drivers often do not realize they may be hit with flying snow and slush as they try to pass a plow, which may lead them to lose control and visibility and that is what likely happened this week.
"When you are behind the plow, everything is calm and it is a very safe place to be and you don't have any snow flying in your face," he said. "If you think you can pass a snowplow and experience the same conditions in front of it or along the side of it as you do in the back you are fooling yourself."
Braceras recommends giving 300 feet of space behind snowplows in part because they are often distributing sand or salt behind them.
Braceras noted the Utah Highway Patrol cited the semitruck driver for causing the crash.