Shovel first or after? Here’s how to avoid getting plowed in during a snowstorm.

You broke your back shoveling snow out of your driveway and are thinking about a hot shower, maybe an adult beverage and a future trip to the chiropractor. And then you hear it.

The crunching, scraping sound of an approaching snow plow, which now might sound like the opening notes of the “Jaws” movie theme. The plow passes, doing its job to clear the road, but the laws of physics say that snow has to go somewhere. And it likely landed into that freshly shoveled driveway.

Insert a not-safe-for-in-front-of-the-kids reaction here.

Several state Departments of Transportation suggested a way to avoid that “second shovel” by shoveling a space to the left of your driveway (that would be to the left as you’re looking out of your driveway).

Maine’s DOT has a diagram and Freehold borough officials posted a similar older NJDOT diagram on its website.

“You can prevent snow plows blocking your driveway by clearing a portion of the highway shoulder immediately adjacent to your driveway,” the NJDOT flier says. “Doing so provides an area where snow from the plow truck can be deposited before reaching your driveway.”

Snow shoveled from your driveway should be piled up “in the direction of traffic.”

But as another storm hovers over the state and has already dumped about 7 inches in some parts, should you really be clearing a public road or highway?

“The snow tip appears to be from an old document, perhaps as much as 20 years old, and I’m not sure where the idea came from,” said Steve Schapiro, an New Jersey DOT spokesman.

While the DOT may have recommended the idea years ago, drivers shouldn’t do it, especially on busier roads, for safety reasons, officials said.

“For a property owner’s own safety, NJDOT does not recommend people shovel any part of a state highway or busy road,” Schapiro said. “It is best to allow the plows to clear the roads and shoulders. Once they have completed the job, then people should shovel out their driveway.”

John Fenimore, Delanco Township’s public works superintendent concurred.

“If possible, wait until snow plows have cleared your street to the curb before beginning to shovel out,” he said. “Give your public works a chance to clear to the curb line.”

If possible, get your vehicles out of the street ahead of the storm. And don’t throw any additional snow in the street when you do shovel your walk or driveway, Fenimore said.

Another tip is if your family has several drivers, have them park as many vehicles as will fit in the driveway, Fenimore said. More vehicles mean less snow to shovel out of the driveway.

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Larry Higgs may be reached at

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