Ice and snow, take it slow: Winter Driving tips from UDOT

Snowplows at UDOT's Station 4473 in Hurricane | Photo by Mori Kessler

SOUTHERN UTAH/HUMOR – With winter coming on, the Utah Department of Transportation is supplying drivers with tips for safe winter travel.

Todd Abbott is the Roadway Operations Manager at UDOT’s Station 4473. He and his crew help maintain the state highways and the stretch of I-15 that passes through Washington County. These are the people who oversee state road projects like the current repaving of Bluff St. and respond to interstate-affecting accidents like the crashed semi that released a millions of bees near St. George. During the winter months, Abbott’s crew is busy checking weather and plowing snow as needed.

Yes, snow. While major snow falls can be anomalies in low-altitude St. George, they are not in the higher points of Washington County.

According to a fact sheet from UDOT, the annual average for snowfall in the St. George area is 2 inches. While it may not seem like much when compared the 450 inches of snow the Wasatch Mountains receive, Abbott noted the rules of winter driving are practically universal.

And just what is Abbott’s sage advice to the driving public in times of winter?

“Take your time,” he said. “By no means should you increase your speed.”

Abbott’s words echo a phrase repeatedly used in UDOT’s list of winter driving tips: “Ice and snow, take it slow.”

A lot of accidents could be avoided if people would slow down when the roads were wet, Abbott said.

He recounted a time when an impatient driver was following close behind a snowplow. The driver found an opportunity to pass the slow-moving behemoth of a vehicle and sped on by. Two miles later the snowplow driver reported seeing the same car stuck in a snow bank on the side of the interstate. The car and driver were ok, but still stuck.

While this could be viewed as a kind of poetic justice, it is an example of not following UDOT’s favored mantra of “ice and snow, take it slow” quote.

As for snowplows, Abbott said it was a good idea to keep a goof distance and not tailgate them.

Be Prepared

The Boy Scout motto is repeated by UDOT and Abbott concerning safe driving, as well as the unlikely event a vehicle may get stuck in a snow storm: drivers must to be prepared.

  • Be aware of road conditions. UDOT recommends checking CommuterLink for road and weather conditions before leaving home.
  • Clear any frost and snow from the car’s lights and windows. Make an effort to see and be seen while driving.
  • Inspect the vehicle’s tires, fluids, wiper blades, lights, and hoses. Preventative maintenance may save a car from breaking down and stranding driver and passengers on the highway.
  • Allow for leeway in travel time. Expect to drive slowly in adverse weather conditions. High speeds can lead to skidding off the road and getting stuck in the snow.
  • Have emergency supplies in the car. A basic winter emergency kit may include items like a flashlight, batteries, snacks, water, gloves, boots, and a first-aid kit.

When Driving

  • Take it slow. Drive well below posted speed limits and leave plenty of space between cars.
  • Approach intersections, off-ramps, bridges and shaded areas slowly. These areas are hotspots for black ice.
  • Slow down in cases of limited visibility and be alert.
  • Whether someone drives an elevated SUV or a ground-kissing Toyota Prius, again, UDOT says to take it slow. Just because a truck has 4-wheel drive doesn’t change how it handles on the road, especially when traction goes out the window. Mother Nature is no respecter of automotive diversity.
  • Keep the vehicle’s speed down. The faster the car goes, the longer it takes to stop. Be slow on the accelerator or risk having the car turn into a skidding bob-sled when the next stop sign appears. And no, gold medals will not be awarded to the winners of the impromptu car-sled competition.
  • Autopilot is not recommended. Do not put the car into cruise control while ice and snow still abound.

Additional information on winter driving can be found at the UDOT website.

mkessler@stgnews.com

Copyright 2011 St. George News. This material may not be published or rewritten without written consent.

 


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