Driving Safely During Inclement Weather
By Greg Royall, Traffic Safety Program Manager, Utah Safety Council

What is inclement weather? You have most likely experienced it recently. Inclement weather is defined as weather conditions of rain, snow, sleet, hail, severe winds, or fog; or roadway surface conditions of wet, snow, slush, or ice.

According to a study conducted by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, bad weather is a factor in more than 2,000 deaths every winter. It is no secret that rain or snow covered roads are more dangerous. Almost half (46%) of crashes involving bad weather take place in the winter, making it the most dangerous time of year for driving. The highest number of crashes involving bad weather happen between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. when visibility is limited and roads are most likely to freeze. Ironically, most truck drivers drive at night to reduce traffic headaches without realizing they are placing themselves in more danger.

Most inclement weather crashes can be prevented by a few simple steps, such as avoiding driving when road conditions are severe, giving yourself extra time to reach your destination, decreasing speed, and increasing following distance.

Here are some winter driving tips that might just save your life and the lives of those around you.

Ice and snow, take it slow. The posted speed limit is for dry, ideal conditions. Driving too fast is the main cause of crashes during the winter. If roads are wet, snowy, or icy, you should SLOW DOWN and drive under the speed limit.

Avoid quick stops, starts, and turns. Accelerate slowly, brake gently, and don’t turn quickly to reduce the risk of losing control over your vehicle.

Increase following distance. Driving too fast and following too close is a deadly combination. You need more space to safely stop when it’s wet, snowy, or icy- especially if your tires are worn down.

Use extra caution when changing lanes. Snow and slush can form ridges between lanes that can be slippery and cause you to lose control. Avoid lane changes if at all possible on snowy and slushy roads.

Always buckle up. Using a seat belt can save your life- and save you from a ticket. When buckling young children in car seats, remember that their coats need to be removed first. It is safer to place a coat or blanket around them after they are securely buckled.

4WD/AWD doesn’t make you invincible. It may help with traction, but doesn’t help with stopping and turning. Snow tires may help, but even those do not make your car invincible.

Keep your tank half full. You never know when your commute may be delayed due to inclement weather or a crash, so always keep your tank at least half full.

Allow more time. Avoid temptation to speed and plan more time for your commute. When travelling, always check local weather conditions of the area for which you are driving in before you set out.

As Alexander Graham Bell once said, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” Simple preparations could save your life on the road.

For free traffic safety resources, be sure to visit UTAHSAFETYCOUNCIL.ORG. There are free 5-Minute Safety Talks, quizzes, videos, and printable safety fact sheets to share with your employees and coworkers.

In addition to free resources, the Utah Safety Council offers a variety of traffic safety programs to keep you safer behind the wheel. Currently, Utah Safety Council offers Defensive Driving courses, Defensive Driving Instructor Certification, Tow Truck Driver Certification, Alive at 25 for young drivers, and a free seatbelt course.

For 80 years, the Utah Safety Council has continually invested in traffic safety programs to help prevent traffic crashes and reduce collision-related injuries and fatalities on Utah’s roads. For more information about the Utah Safety Council’s traffic safety programs, contact Greg Royall at 801.746.SAFE (7233) or email groyall@utahsafetycouncil.org.

Winter conditions present many challenges to drivers, but if each person commits to practicing safer driving habits, we can all help to save lives on Utah’s road.