FAIRBANKS — Collisions between vehicles and snow removal equipment have become a troubling trend this winter, with at least 14 crashes in the Interior this year alone, according to the Alaska Department of Transportation.

The latest crash happened Saturday, when a driver was hospitalized after rear-ending a grader on the Richardson Highway near Moose Creek. In January, 20-year-old Robert Gusty, of Fairbanks, was killed when he crashed into the back of a grader on the Parks Highway near Nenana.

Snow plows are susceptible to getting rear-ended because they travel slowly — about 40 to 45 mph — and often operate in bad weather. But DOT spokeswoman Meadow Bailey said many of the crashes don’t happen when visibility is poor, and that transportation officials are puzzled by the growing problem.

She said DOT is working to raise the profile of such accidents to boost public awareness.

“These are happening really frequently,” Bailey said. “It seems to be increasing steadily for the past five years.”

As a rule, motorists should stay 200 feet behind equipment and not pass on the right. Snow plows can cause white-out conditions when they’re followed too close. Bailey said vehicles should pay attention to road conditions, rather than using a speed limit intended for dry pavement.

She also warned that plows also often work in teams, so drivers need to be prepared to ease their pace rather than make a dangerous maneuver to pass several pieces of equipment.

“People need to slow down a little,” she said. “It’s not worth the time they’re saving.”

Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518.