“Thank you for being a friend. Traveled down a road and back again.”
“The Golden Girls” theme song plays in the background as Betty Whiteout, Eastern Washington’s newest towplow, named for series star Betty White, barrels down the road.
@washingtonstatedot Did you hear about our newest snowplow? #bettywhite #bettywhiteout #snowplowlife #winterdriving #wsdot ♬ original sound – Washington State DOT
It’s the latest in a series of popular TikToks from the Washington State Department of Transportation educating a new generation on safety and making them laugh, too.
WSDOT began naming their towplows in 2019. The innovative plow features a typical snowplow in front. In the back, an attached trailer using a hydraulic system swings out up to a 65-degree angle to clear two lanes at once, explained Joe McHale with WSDOT.
All four towplows work in Eastern Washington.
Plowie McPlow Plow covers western Spokane County and Interstate 90 west of Geiger. The Big LePlowski covers east Spokane County and I-90 out to the Idaho border. Sir Plows-a-Lot covers the North Spokane Corridor and U.S. Route 395.
The newest of the plows, Betty Whiteout, came online in 2022 and covers I-90 east of Fishtrap, Lincoln County, including the Ritzville area in Adams County.
WSDOT began naming the plows in an effort to engage the public and recognize the hardworking crews who run them, McHale said.
“We thought it was a fun idea to involve the public and also just bring more awareness to our snowplows by giving them names and identifying them so people can recognize them,” McHale said.
Betty Whiteout, named after the iconic actress who died late last year at age 99, beat out other potential names in a March Madness-style bracket.
Whiteout beat runners-up Darth Blader, Plow Chicka Plow Plow and Plowasaurus Rex as the public voted in an online survey and on Twitter.
Social media has been a huge tool to educate the public on transportation safety, said Mike Allende, social media manager for WSDOT.
WSDOT has tried to maintain a social media presence that is both educational and relatable, Allende said. It’s a way to remind the public that real people work in government, he said.
“The way to do that is to engage with people as we would want to be engaged with,” Allende said.
Last year, the department began posting on TikTok in hopes of reaching a different audience from their followers on Twitter and Facebook.
So far it has been successful, with several videos going viral.
“We’re getting information that we’ve talked about a lot on our other platforms to a new group of people,” Allende said.
The videos on snowplows have garnered hundreds of thousands of views. The video introducing Betty Whiteout alone was seen by nearly a half million users.
“In general, people are really interested in snowplowing,” Allende said. “Then you add some creative names to it and they really go wild.”
The fun videos have raised awareness about the importance of the plows, especially for young people who are the future commuters of the state.
“It’s going to be important to their lives,” Allende said. While the mode of transportation might change, “the messages about safety and all of that are going to be the same.”