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Motorists cautioned to prepare for winter

Sun Advocate community editor

As the holidays approach and Carbon County commuters gear up to visit family and friends, local and state law enforcement and safety agencies remind motorists to take proper precautions to deal with winter driving conditions.

Winter driving in Utah requires many skills, according to the Utah Department of Transportation, a watchful eye for constantly changing winter conditions and common sense.

"Nearly all routes cross mountains or open valleys and so weather driving conditions change rapidly as storms pass through," said the site.

Additionally, many roads and highways are currently under construction as maintenance crews work to improve or widen roads all over the state. This is especially notable for Carbon drivers who must traverse U.S. Highway 6 which is under heavy construction.

The department reports that roadside weather stations on key routes collect current weather and roadway temperature information via sophisticated sensors.

The network provides valuable information to highway maintenance personnel, making the battle against ice and snow more efficient, effective and less costly.

Localized storm forecasts help crews prepare for storms before they arrive.

While there are times that driving is a must, the weather channel's website at states that the best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all.

"Don't go out until the snow plows and sanding trucks have had a chance to do their work and allow yourself extra time to reach your destination," states the site. "If you must drive in snowy conditions, make sure your car is prepared and that you know how to handle road conditions."

The weather site recommends practicing winter driving in an open parking lot once snow has fallen.

Practice will insure that an individual is familiar with a vehicle's handling in wet and frozen conditions.

To further a motorist's preparedness, the site offers several icy road driving tips. Local motorists should:

•Decrease speed and leave plenty of room to stop at all times. A car needs three times the stopping space between another car in icy conditions.

•Brake gently to avoid skidding and ease off the brake if the vehicle begins to lock up.

•Keep the car's lights running at all times in bad weather. This will increase the car's visibility to other motorists.

•Use low gears to aid with traction control especially on hills.

•Do not use a vehicles cruise control function or overdrive on icy roads.

•Be mindful of bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which tend to freeze first, according to the site, even at temperatures above freezing. "If conditions are wet you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges."

•Do not pass snow plows.

•Most importantly, do not assume that any vehicle, no matter its capabilities can handle any conditions any vehicle possibly could skid.

If a vehicle goes into a skid it is recommended that the driver let off the accelerator, steer in the direction the front is desired to go.

"If your rear wheels are spinning sliding left, steer left. If they are spinning right steer right," said the site. A full list of anti-skid instructions in available on the site.

While safe driving practices are important, sometimes getting stuck is inevitable. Strong winds, ground blizzards, fog, snow and ice can all come together forcing a vehicle from the road. If this is the case it is imperative that drivers are prepared for a prolonged stop.

UDOT recommends that drivers keep a full tank of gas, checking signal and hazard lights regularly and remembering to clean off icy shoes before getting into a vehicle in order to avoid slippage on the peddles once moving.

If stranded the Utah department keeping several essential items in the car; a snow shovel, ice scraper or snow brush, jumper cables, flashlights, warm clothes and blankets, car or cell phones, a first aid kit, tow chains or straps, food, candles and matches, sand or cat litter (for traction) and tire chains.

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