Utah storms are on the weather horizon and road users need to be prepared for driving on icy, snowy roads.
UDOT keeps state roads as safe as possible during storms. Do your part by driving the appropriate speed, monitoring traffic conditions, driving with care around snow plows and adjusting trip plans whenever possible.
Drive for Zero Fatalities
In any weather, drowsy, distracted, aggressive or impaired driving is unsafe. Icy or snow packed roads are especially unforgiving, so a heightened level of attention is required. Sometimes drivers don’t adjust speed to conditions. According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, Highway Safety office crash data report “speed is the leading unsafe driving behavior that contributes to deaths.”
High speeds extend the distance necessary to stop, reduce a drivers’ ability to steer safely around curves or objects in the road and reduce vehicle stability. Mix high speed with ice and snow and tragedy can quickly result.
UDOT’s CommuterLink website is a great resource for road users. It’s a good idea to bookmark the site and check road conditions before you leave on your commute or errand. The site integrates camera views and information about accidents and traffic delay on an interactive map. Users can take a virtual look at the ride through the storm to anticipate conditions like ice or snow on the road or crashes that slow traffic. Better yet – avoid delay altogether by taking an alternate route or adjusting travel time.
Stay safe around snow plows
- Motorists should always slow down and travel about a football field’s length behind snowplows to increase highway safety for all drivers.
- Following a snowplow too closely often results in broken windshields or damaged paint caused by salt or abrasives being distributed on highways.
- Drivers should use extreme caution when passing a snowplow and never pass on the right side or use the shoulder to pass. Drivers should watch for snowplows equipped with wing plows, which can extend several feet off either side.
Other things to remember:
- Bridges freeze first. Ambient air temperature cools the bridge from both sides. On the road itself, “the ground holds the heat,” says Rich Clarke, UDOT Maintenance Operations Engineer. So, pavement on a bridge can be icy while road pavement on either side can be wet.
- Ice can be very difficult to detect. A thin layer of water on pavement “can change from wet to ice in a moment,” says Clarke. Visually distinguishing unfrozen water from black ice while driving is extremely difficult if not impossible.
- If you can, stay home during the first part of a storm. Plow operators clear the road as quickly as possible. “The first hour of a storm can be the most treacherous,” since a vigorous storm can cover roads quickly, explains Lynn Burnhard, UDOT Maintenance Methods Engineer. Delaying your departure gives UDOT a chance to clear the roads.
- Don’t make weather assumptions. “Be careful not to generalize,” when it comes to storms cautions meteorologist Joel Dreessen who works with UDOT. Since the storms vary greatly in temperature and duration in Utah, it’s very difficult to know what kind of winter conditions to expect. Utah can get hit with a heavy snow storm followed by sun. While the roads may look clear after such a weather event, a quick drop in temperature can turn melted snow to ice. A very cold storm can cause road water and snow to glaze quickly. So, even a storm that appears to be light can in reality can create very hazardous conditions.
Be careful out there!