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Preparations Have Been Made to Help Keep Wintry Roads Safe

Dec 07, 2015 09:42AM ● Published by Rachel Hall

By Rachel Hall

Winter storms have already entered the local area and that is why Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) showcased their equipment fleet in November – providing an opportunity for individuals to see the latest snow removal equipment that will be used throughout the winter season to help keep Utah’s roads safe and plowed.

“It’s something we do every year to just let people know that we are ready for the winter season, and to tell people what they need to do as well to make sure it is a safe season on our roads,” John Gleason, UDOT public information officer, said.

It is not uncommon for motorists to be taken by surprise during the first few snow storms of the season, since many people have not been driving in snowy conditions for several months. The first storms are a good reminder of what lays on the horizon with mother nature and that Utah can expect to see significant snow fall each year, according to Gleason.

“Typically, we plan on about 20 - 25 statewide snowstorms every year. Our budget is usually around $20 - $23 million every year, and usually we anticipate each storm is going to be about a million dollars to handle,” Gleason said. 

Commuters should also use the start of the winter season to prepare for potentially dangerous road conditions.

“You want to check your tires, your wiper blades, make sure that you have enough fluids in your vehicle –  that you’re carrying water and nonperishable food if you do happen to get stuck in a storm,” Gleason said.

Most importantly, drivers should be aware of their speed while traveling on any Utah roads during wintry conditions. 

“No matter what the speed limit says, if you are traveling on the urban interstate here in the Salt Lake County area, there is 70 mph, but that’s only when it’s optimal conditions. When it’s snowing, and even raining, you always want to drive for the weather conditions. Slow down, give yourself plenty of room between yourself and the vehicle in front of you, so that you give yourself enough room to break,” Gleason said. 

Conditions may appear normal, but because temperatures are so cold and there is a lot of precipitation, there could be some icy areas that blend in with the road, and drivers don’t know until they have hit it and it’s too late. That’s why drivers want to take those preparations beforehand and slow down, drive for the conditions and have plenty of room to break according to Gleason.

“The biggest thing that we would ask people to do is to check your UDOT traffic app. That will give you all of the road conditions, and let you know when we are doing avalanche control as well,” he said.

On occasion, UDOT closes down the canyon and creates manmade avalanches targeted at spots that could become trouble, so that an avalanche doesn’t come down on people later in the day. 

“We are out there 24/7. We are always prepared so that if a storm hits in the middle of the day or middle of the night, we have drivers staffed. We actually rely quite heavily on our weather center. They predict when and where the storm is going to hit, so they can tell us what hour we need to have our crews ready to go. So if we have a major storm coming through, we will send our men and women home to rest beforehand. We will get the preparations in place and we will be ready to go, and then we will hit it continuously until we are seeing black pavement,” Gleason said.

Motorists who find themselves in trouble on the roadway due to poor weather conditions are in a vulnerable position and that’s why Gleason suggests people drive their cars out of the situation and get off the freeway at the next exit – even for minor fender bender accidents.

“If you’ve hit a patch of ice and you’ve slid off road, there’s a good chance that somebody else is going to hit that same patch of ice and slide right into you. You’re really vulnerable if you are staying in place there,” he said. “We’ve had so many crashes that turn out fatal and they were just minor fender benders because people get out of their vehicles. It’s the natural reaction if you’re in a crash.”

Sometimes a car cannot be driven out of the situation that it is in, and that is when motorists should call for help and stay inside their vehicles.

“If you can’t drive your car out of the situation, get off as far over as you can. Do whatever you can to get off the freeway, but stay in your vehicle with your seatbelt fastened,” Gleason said.

For more information about road conditions and the UDOT app, visit www.udot.utah.gov       

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