Officials give driving tips for winter weather

Image from Pixabay of a car driving in snow.

Idaho is known for its cold and snow. Not everyone knows how to drive in winter weather, especially BYU-Idaho students from warmer places who might not have experienced such hazardous driving conditions before.

Natalie Shaver is the public information officer for the Idaho Office of Emergency Management. She gave advice to help prepare drivers before hitting the road.

“Having an emergency kit for your car can come in handy when you least expect it,” Shaver said. “This kit should have jumper cables, flares or reflective triangles, an ice scraper, a cell phone charger, a blanket, a map and cat litter or sand. Before you leave for a trip, it’s always a good idea to have a mechanic check your car. Have them take a look at antifreeze levels, battery and ignition system, brakes, exhaust system, fuel and air filters, heater and defroster, lights and flashing hazard lights, oil, thermostat and windshield wipers and washer fluid levels. Make sure to keep your gas tank near full. This will prevent the fuel line from freezing. Install good winter tires.”

Shaver went on to talk about winter storms specifically.

“If it’s wet and slick, remember to slow down, don’t use cruise control, and leave plenty of distance between you and other vehicles,” Shaver said. “Planning ahead can make all the difference. Winter storms can last days, so it’s important to have an emergency kit in your car in case you end up stranded or stuck. If you know a storm is coming, try to stay off the roads during and right after it hits.”

There are generally more accidents when there is snow on the roads. Officer Jordan Jensen of the Rexburg police department recommended, in the event of an accident, to pull off to the side if possible. Then, make sure you’re OK, check on others involved and call the police.

“From a law enforcement perspective,” Jensen said, “you see the snow, and the first thing you think is, ‘Here come the crashes,’ especially the first big snow of the year.”

Jensen said that the first snow is a time when drivers have to readjust. It can take time to get familiar with the way different cars handle hazardous conditions, especially for drivers who are new to snow. He also mentioned checking to make sure vehicle tires are filled with the proper amount of air and to fully clean windshields from frost before hitting the road.

Besides the difficulty of driving in snow, the weather also changes available parking.

This flyer warns drivers about where not to park.
This flyer warns drivers about where not to park. Photo credit: Jordan Jensen

“On particularly snowy or windy nights, some roads in Rexburg will be totally snowed over and closed,” Jensen said. “For snow removal, there is a no-overnight-parking ordinance from Dec. 15 through March 1. A vehicle could receive a parking ticket and/or be towed if parked on Rexburg streets from 2-7 a.m. during the above dates. The purpose for this is so that the snowplow vehicles can access the roads properly to best remove the snow. It also helps reduce vehicle crashes.”

More information on driving safety in winter weather can be found on the Idaho Transportation Department website and the Idaho Driver’s Handbook.