Cresting a snowy hill on Arlington’s Military Road early Monday, Jason Berry came face-to-face with something no driver wants to see — a county snowplow heading toward him in his own lane.
“I hit the brakes and slid for a ways — actually toward him, until I pulled my [emergency] brake,” said Berry, 44. His new Volkswagen Jetta slid across the slick median strip, spun around and came to a halt in the opposite lane.
The snowplow “could have cut my car in half,” Berry, a filmmaker and entrepreneur, recalled hours later. “It was terrifying.”
Berry grabbed a video camera he had in his car and resumed driving, following the plow — but staying in the correct lane -- while describing for the camera what had just happened.
“Over a hill, going the wrong way in a snowplow ... no way for a car to see that thing coming,” he narrates on the video. “I almost slid into that thing. It’s the most asinine thing I’ve ever seen, and a great way to kill someone. It’s unbelievable.
As Berry drew closer to the snowplow, near the intersection with Marcey Road, he recorded another car coming toward it, down an incline in still-slippery conditions. The plow driver pulled to the side and came to a stop. The oncoming vehicle moved out of its path, into unplowed snow in the middle of the road, and was able to get by.
When Berry got home, he called police to report the plow’s behavior, and notified a friend who works for the Arlington County government. He also posted his video on YouTube. It was quickly picked up by the Arlnow.com blog.
By later that morning, Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services was aware of what happened and took action.
The driver of snowplow 5403, a county employee for 10 to 15 years, was pulled from street duty “and will not be driving a plow” until a disciplinary process is completed, said Dave Hundelt, the chief operating engineer in the department’s water, sewer and streets bureau.
The driver’s behavior was “completely unacceptable,” said Hundelt, adding that he could not recall any similar incidents in his 20 years with the county. The driver, whose name was not released, “made a very serious error today and he recognizes that.”
The incident became an object lesson for other county snow plow drivers.
“We reviewed this incident with the team that took over snow operations at noon today in the pre-shift driver briefing, pointing out that it demonstrated unacceptable and unsafe plowing technique and was contrary to our annual training for snow and ice removal operations,” Hundelt said.
Berry, the Volkswagen driver who filmed the incident, said was glad to hear of the robust response by the county — but still rattled by what he saw.
“I’m from upstate New York and I grew up driving in snow,” Berry said. “If I hadn’t turned around to get some video of this guy, let’s say we have another snowstorm in five days and this guy is out there doing it again — accidents do happen, and people get hurt and killed.”