For Immediate Release
Posted: January 05, 2024


Richard Arcand, Public Information Officer
(603) 271-6495

NHDOT Message to Winter Outdoor Enthusiasts

Hikers, ice climbers, skiers, snowshoers, snowmobilers and other backcountry visitors are cautioned not to leave their vehicles on the side of state-maintained highways.

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) encourages winter visitors to enjoy New Hampshire’s beauty and diverse recreational opportunities in a safe and respectful manner.  Visitors are reminded that weather and roadway conditions can differ significantly from their home or as they travel across the state, so planning ahead is critical. The following is recommended to improve the winter traveling experience for all those heading to NH: 

  1. Before traveling, visit to check road conditions, live video from traffic cameras and possible incidents.
  2. Pay attention to the roadway and what is going on around you. 
  3. Posted speed limits apply when travel conditions are ideal. Drivers are advised to slow down when the temperature is below freezing, roads are wet, snow-covered or visibility is reduced. 
  4. Watch the road ahead and increase distance to vehicles you are following. 
  5. Stay at least 200 feet behind a working snowplow. Make sure that you can see the plow's mirrors to ensure the driver can see you. 
  6. If you must pass, be careful. Snowplows often create a cloud of snow that can obscure vision and the plows and wings extend well beyond the truck itself.  
  7. Never pass a snowplow on the right. Plowing activity and the wing can block the driver’s visibility of approaching vehicles. 
  8. Remember that road conditions in front of the plow will likely be worse than behind. 
  9. During major winter storms, consider altering or canceling your trip. Have an alternative to explore closer to home to reduce travel. 
  10. Travelers are reminded that cellular phone service is not available for a significant portion of the NH highway system and in the mountains.   
  11. During storm events roadways may be wet, snow covered, icy and/or slippery and may encounter debris in the roadway. Travelers need to be prepared for and alter their driving to meet the varied road surface conditions.  

Backcountry visitors are encouraged to park off the Highway at clearly marked and designated parking areas, typically found at trail heads.  Please note that a significant number of parking areas that are available during the spring, summer and fall, are not plowed for winter use.  And those that are plowed, particularly those maintained by NHDOT, are not plowed during winter storms.  These lots may have a single lane plowed through them if the lot is used as a plow route turnaround. But for the most part, these lots are plowed as part of storm cleanup during regular work hours, Monday thru Friday.  Those using the lots should be prepared to shovel their way out.  Also, understand that cell service is not always available in these areas. 

The primary objective of NHDOT’s Winter Operation staff is to clear the roadway as quickly and efficiently as possible so that the highway is passable at a reduced and reasonable speed for the conditions, for emergency vehicles as well as the motoring public. The NHDOT staff and their contract plow drivers work in all weather conditions. When visibility is low and a plow comes upon a vehicle parked on the side of the road, there is potential for a collision. The vehicle could be damaged by the passing plow. Plus, this puts our operator’s safety at risk and operations get behind schedule because of needed repairs or replacement the plow equipment. 

Please OBEY THE LAW and remember that you are safer at home during storms:  

NH State law (RSA 262:32) allows for the towing of any vehicle that is "obstructing snow removal or highway maintenance operations." Additionally, residents and visitors are reminded there is no parking at any time along any Interstate highway, including I-93 (Franconia Notch Parkway) in Franconia Notch. 

If a vehicle is encountered which impacts snow removal activities, it has been the NHDOT’s long-standing policy to call department dispatchers to summon police to the location to check on it. It is at the discretion of police on what action is taken, which may include a ticket or the vehicle being towed. Neither the NHDOT nor the law enforcement agencies want to significantly restrict the public use of the winter resources, however, these uses can’t come at the detriment to public safety or mobility. 

In the past this issue has arisen in the White Mountain Region where some hikers heading for recreation in the mountains have hindered winter maintenance operations by parking on the side of state roads. With the increase in recreational use, the NHDOT wants to avoid conflicts between parked vehicles and maintenance operations which may adversely impact the recreational experience in the state.