Utah Department of Public Safety

Highway Safety - Winter Driving






Let’s face it — unless you’re a Winter Olympics athlete, speed, snow and ice don’t mix.

The following simple word-math hybrid equations will help explain this:

Dry road vs. wet road = different
Dry road vs. icy or snowy road = VERY different

We’ll assume that most of the time you drive on dry roads — fair enough?
Okay, and most of the time, you’re a pretty good driver, right? You make left and right turns, occasionally use your turn signal, stop behind the car in front of you. Good.

Your vehicle will not perform or react the same way on a wet, icy or snowy road as it does on all those days you drive on dry roads.

What’s that? You have 4-wheel drive? Well, that will help you with things like accelerating, but not slowing down; you still need extra distance to stop, slower speed to round corners, and more time to get where you need to go.

The main thing to remember is: WHEN THERE’S ICE AND SNOW, TAKE IT SLOW!



Safe Winter Driving Tips


  • If you don’t have to go anywhere when the weather’s bad, stay home!
  • Check all road conditions and weather forecast (1-866-511-UTAH or commuterlink.utah.gov).
  • Let someone know your itinerary, especially for long trips.Make sure your vehicle is prepared for the conditions.
  • Clear snow and ice from your vehicle’s windows, mirrors, lights, and license plates.
  • As always, buckle up!
  • Turn lights on at dusk, in rain, snow and fog (but not brights in foggy conditions).
  • TAKE IT SLOW — reduce your speed.
  • Avoid quick stops, starts and turns — smooth and gradual movements will help you stay in control of your vehicle.
  • Leave extra space between you and other vehicles, especially snowplows.
  • Use extra caution on bridges, ramps, overpasses and in shaded areas — they are likely to freeze first and stay frozen the longest.
  • Watch for snow removal equipment.
  • If your vehicle starts to skid, steer into the direction of the slide. For tips on avoiding overcorrection, click here.
  • Be focused, alert and aware — pay attention to what’s going on around you.


Yes, you can be cited for driving with your windows covered or partially covered by snow.





Slick road surfaces will magnify all aspects of driving -- braking & steering in particular.




Avoid quick stops, starts and turns



Don't Crowd the Plow

Clearing the roads, salting them with that Great Salt Lake brine . . . Snowplows do great things! Occasionally they’ll do kind of annoying things like shoving all that icy, wet, chunky snow from the street right onto your driveway apron that you just finished shoveling. But that’s the exception, not the rule, right?

These beasts of the road need room to do their work properly. While you may think they’re in your way, you are probably in theirs. And they’re bigger, and they’re throwing snow and debris, so you need to back off! Don’t crowd the plow.

UDOT has these tips for staying safe around snowplows. Watch out for snowplows and consider:


- Snowplows travel below the posted speed limit.

- Don’t tailgate and try not to pass. If you must pass (and, really? MUST you??) use extreme caution and beware of the snowcloud!

- Be patient!

- Allow plenty of space to slow down

- When there’s ice and snow, take it slow








- Give snowplows room to work — they are wide and can cross the centerline or shoulder.

- Never pass a snowplow on the right!!

- Keep back at least 200 feet (unless you like salt and abrasives damaging your windshield and paint.)

- Snowplows frequently stop and backup, so give them plenty of room! (Don’t crowd the plow!)


Interested in snowplows? Want to test your knowledge of them and snow removal on Utah's roadways? Then take our UDOT Snowplow Quiz! See the bottom of this page for the answers.

1. Which of the following is NOT a type of truck used to remove snow from Utah’s roads?
a. Tow Plow
b. 10-Wheeler
c. Tweener
d. Bobtail
e. None of the above

2. True or False: UDOT has a snowplow simulator to help train its drivers.

3. How many snowplows does UDOT have on the roads at any given time statewide?

a. 350
b. 400
c. 500
d. 750

4. UDOT is responsible for clearing snow from _____ lane miles of pavement.
a. 8,500
b. 10,000
c. 16,000
d. 19,000

5. About how many tons of salt does UDOT use each year?
a. 50,000
b. 160,000
c. 210,000
d. 320,000


Slow Down and Move Over


Already this winter, troopers have been hit when pulled over to the side of the road to assist other vehicles.


When you’re approaching a stationary emergency vehicle, such as atow truck, fire/EMS vehicle or police car, SLOW DOWN AND MOVE OVER!

Give those vehicles as much space as safely possible.

Stay focused and keep your eyes on the road. You may want to “rubber neck” and see what happened, but your car has a tendency to go where you’re looking — target fixation. This can lead you to hit those emergency vehicles or even personnel.





Quiz Answers

1. E — UDOT uses all of these vehicles to assist with snow removal. Here are some more details about them:
  Bobtail – small plow truck,
  10-Wheeler – plow truck carrying salt/brine,
  Tow Plow – 10-Wheeler plus an additional unit that carries salt and swings out to the side of the plow. The tow plow can cover 2½ lanes. UDOT has 4 of them.
  Tweener – cross between a pick-up truck and a snow plow.

2.TRUE — UDOT reports it has raised their miles per gallon by efficiency training. The more training UDOT can give its drivers, the safer and more efficient they are on the road.

3.C — UDOT has about 500 snow plows on the roads at any given time statewide. When there's a big storm, they have all the plows in the region on the roads. UDOT’s snow plows can handle about 1 inch per hour.

4.D — 19,000 – UDOT is responsible for plowing 19,000 lane miles statewide.

5.C — 210,000 tons – Here’s some more information about salt:
  Salt (dry): It’s very effective when road surface temperatures are above 20°. The colder the storm is, the more difficult it is to take care of. Below 20° salt isn’t as effective, even if the layer of snow is very thin.
  White Salt: Solar evaporated salt from the Great Salt Lake.
  Red Salt: Redmond salt from a mine in southern Utah. Also called “ice slicer.”
  Redmond is about 92% salt, 6% naturally occurring chemicals that reduce the active temperature, 2% grit. It’s also darker so it absorbs the solar energy better.

Thanks to UDOT’s Public Information Team for all of the great information!!


To contact UDOT regarding an issue with a snow plow, call 801-965-4000 or e-mail srwebmail@utah.gov

For more information about winter driving, please contact

Helen Knipe
Program Coordinator
Utah Highway Safety Office
(801) 520-5074


[Last Update - Monday, 08-Dec-2014 08:40:02 MST]