Navigating winter driving conditions

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The season is changing, and it is time to start preparing vehicles for the change in driving conditions. Officials are predicting another white winter with above-average snowfall, according to Old Farmers Almanac. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Winter is approaching, and for thousands of out-of-state BYU students, “winterizing” their vehicle and driving in the snow may be a new experience. 

Last year’s record-breaking winter nearly doubled weather-related accidents, according to the Utah Department of Public Safety, and the 2023-2024 winter forecast for Utah predicts another year of above-average snowfall, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac

BYU student Westin Meyers from Atlanta explained driving in the winter can be a challenge, especially when the roads are icy.

“My first year with a car was a little hard. I actually ran into someone … I was going up to a red light and hit the brakes, then hit a patch of ice and slid into someone. It wasn’t bad, I was going like 2 mph … everyone was okay,” Meyers said. 

If driving behind a snowplow, drivers should make sure to give it plenty of space. The road behind an active snowplow is the safest, Gandy said. (Ty Mullen)

Joseph Gandy, head of public works for Provo Police, said its snow plow team is continually monitoring weather patterns and is prepared to keep snow cleared during the winter season.

“We would encourage everyone to give snow plows plenty of space, don’t try and pass snow plows on the road. That would be the biggest thing, and then just taking your time going slow, making sure your car is prepared,” Gandy said.

BYU student Julia Mckinnon from Herriman is used to Utah’s winter driving conditions and said it is important to prepare your car before a storm hits. 

“Make sure to get your tires checked before the first snowfall. If you need chains or find yourself in a situation where you’re gonna need chains, make sure you get those before you need them,” Mckinnon said. 

The Utah Department of Public Safety offers useful vehicle preparation tips, including checking tires for traction and adequate pressure, inspecting wiper blades, refilling wiper fluid reservoir, examining the battery and cooling system and keeping an emergency kit fit for the season in your car. 

The main cause of crashes in the winter is driving too fast. Posted speed limits are intended for dry conditions, so when roads are wet or icy, drivers should remain under the speed limit and plan for extra travel time, UDPOS said.

BYU student Spencer Bennett from Payson said remaining alert is important when weather conditions are bad. 

Drivers should avoid driving in the snow when possible. If driving is necessary, drivers should plan for extra time to get to their destinations and drive slow, UDOPS said. (Ty Mullen)

“Not having music super loud, so you are aware of what is around you. Being aware that you are going to slide a lot more than you think you are,” Bennett said. 

If the car does slide, the UDOPS recommends easing off the gas and steering the wheel in the direction of the car’s rearward movement.

Additional safe driving practices for winter weather include making gradual turns, avoiding sudden changes in speed or switching lanes, increasing following distance, using caution when driving on bridges and not using cruise control, UDOPS said. 

For more tips on winterizing your vehicle or driving in the snow, check out BYU’s risk management and safety tips.

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