Snowstorms sent drivers sliding off roads in 177 separate incidents Monday, three of which involved Utah Highway Patrol troopers.
The majority of those incidents occurred between Salt Lake and Utah counties, UHP Col. Michael Rapich said, prompting the agency to urge drivers to slow down when winter weather strikes.
“We’ve had a really busy day. We had a snowstorm come in, it’s the first of a bunch of snowstorms we’re anticipating this week, it’s going to be a long week,” Rapich said. “Just because you see that the roads are clear doesn’t mean that you don’t need to be anticipating the fact that the roads are still dangerous, you may still have a problem.”
Three patrol cars were hit while troopers were investigating crashes, Rapich said, adding all were stopped in highly visible locations with their lights flashing and plenty of traffic control measures in place.
In two of the accidents, troopers who were out of their vehicles narrowly escaped injury as other vehicles came sliding into them. One trooper, stopped in Utah County, jumped out of the way of another car and “literally missed being struck by inches,” Rapich said.
“In one of those crashes they had probably 50 flares out, and we still had traffic coming into there really fast,” Rapich said. “We need your help, this is going to be a long week for everybody.”
Two of the patrol cars were totaled, Rapich said. One was hit multiple times.
UHP will be out in full force this week as more storms are anticipated and Utahns return to work at the end of the holidays.
“When it’s snowing, when the roads are in bad shape, troopers aren’t out making traffic stops, they’re not out there for any other reason than there’s a problem,” Rapich said. “You need to realize that when you see those red-and-blue lights, anticipate that there’s a problem and slow down.”
John Gleason, Utah Department of Transportation spokesman, warned commuters about potential storms during the commutes on Wednesday and Thursday. While UDOT’s nearly 550 plows will be attempting to keep roads clear, drivers must do their part by slowing down, he said.
“Every available resource will be out there this week. We are expecting a major storm,” Gleason said. “With a storm like this that we’re expecting, we need people to slow down, plan ahead, give yourself some extra time and just anticipate that it’s going to take you longer than it normally would.”
UHP is also reminding drivers whose vehicles are experiencing problems or have been in an accident but can still drive should move out of traffic and off freeways or highways, then call 911 for UHP help.
“Get off the next off-ramp, get down into a parking lot, we will come and find you,” Rapich said.
Gleason also emphasized that when stopped vehicles snarl traffic, plows can’t reach the area to help.
Utahns can track UDOT plows on the agency’s smartphone app, Gleason noted.