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Getting Around in Utah

Winter Survival Tips
Part II - Winter Driving

Related Resources
Part I - Vehicle Preparedness
Part III - Shut In
The best thing to do if the roads are bad is to avoid driving at all. But in this day of hectic lifestyles with long distance commuting sometimes the norm, avoiding driving is not an option. So, we just have to adjust our habits a little and we'll be okay. Remember that driving on ice is very different than driving on dry roads, and we have to follow a different set of rules.

Before You Go:

  • Make sure your vehicle is prepared for winter driving. (Winter Survival Tips: Part I - Vehicle Preparedness)

  • If you must venture out in bad weather, check the weather and road reports for conditions where you will be traveling. The Internet is an amazing thing these days with up to the minute conditions available at the click of a mouse.

  • Use public transportation if possible (the fewer cars out there, the less chance of accidents). UTA offers us either busses or TRAX. Especially in questionable weather, you should consider using them.

  • Let your engine warm up while you brush (or scrape) off any snow or ice that has accumulated while you were inside.

  • Make sure your headlights and mirrors are free of snow.

  • Know your air-bag options. Officially, "Adults in the front should sit at least 10 inches away from the air bag. All children aged twelve and under should be properly restrained in the back seat. Infants up to one year of age (or up to 20 pounds) should be in a rear-facing car seat; kids between the ages of one and four (20 to 40 pounds) should be in a forward-facing child seat; those four years old (or 40 pounds) may graduate to a booster seat or a seat belt, depending on their size."

  • Buckle Up. It's the Law.

  • Prevent accident injuries by paying attention to the position of your head restraint. Believe it or not, this safety feature is more important than most people know. "Ideally, the top of the head restraint should be above the center of your ear or higher. You should also be conscious of the distance between the back of your head and the front of the restraint. Tests show that sitting more than four inches from the headrest increases the risk of neck injury from accidents, says Viano. Proper adjustment can mean the difference between a stiff neck and a serious case of whiplash."

Practice safe driving techniques:

  • Keep your speed down and proceed cautiously, even if your car has four-wheel drive. Sudden, quick moves increase the possibility of losing control on the ice.

  • Having four-wheel drive does not enhance your ability to stop on the ice. Having a monster truck will get you better traction in deep snow and mud, and you will be able to maintain momentum on slippery surfaces. It means you can drive into areas where you would not be able to without 4-wheel drive. But it they won't stop any faster than two-wheel-drive cars.

  • Follow other cars at a safe distance. Use the three-second rule. Pick a fixed object in the distance, such as a road sign, and start counting when the car directly in front of you passes it. If you pass the sign before you count to three, you are not allowing enough distance to stop in an emergency. Add more seconds as weather conditions deteriorate.

  • Keeping a safe distance is also important when going uphill. If you are very close to the car in front of you, and it loses traction, it could slide back into you.

  • Use antilock brakes properly. They are pretty awesome on ice. On more than one occasion, when I have gone into a slide, and hit the breaks (my vehicle is equipped with ABS), I was able to maintain control and not fishtail into something. But, just like 4-wheel drive, ABS does NOT make you invincible. This feature will prevent the wheels from locking, and will automatically pump the breaks faster than any driver could. So, keep your foot on the breaks, and don't try to pump them yourself. Stomp down fast and hard on the pedal and do not let up until the car stops.

  • If possible, back into your parking space. If there is any snow accumulation while you are inside, it will be a lot easier to see while pulling out going forward than backing out.

  • If the road is very packed and icy-slick, try pulling way over and driving with two wheels in the less-slick snow on the side of the road. (This will only work if the snow is not very deep :-).

  • If you start to slide, turn your wheels in the direction of the slide. I know it is hard sometimes to think when you are in panic-mode, and your instinct is to turn away from where you are sliding, but if you turn toward the slide, your car will straighten out.

If you get Stuck:

Winter Survival Tips Part III - Shut In

Backroads of Utah
by Theresa A. Husarik

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