As the weather worsens, road conditions become poorer for drivers, causing more car accidents. Since the beginning of the year, two BYU-I students sustained fatal injuries in car accidents on I-15.
Here are five tips for staying safe on the road.
1. Stay alert
According to a recent study by the CDC, about 1 in 25 adults have reported falling asleep while driving in the previous 30 days.
Doug Barker, a patrol supervisor for University Security and Safety, said it is key to get sufficient rest before getting behind the wheel.
The National Sleep Foundation reported that when an individual is awake for 18 hours straight their capacity to drive is equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol level of .05. For reference, .08 is considered drunk.
The danger intensifies with less sleep.
“If you’ve been awake for a full 24 hours and drive—say, after a night where you just couldn’t fall asleep—it’s like you have a blood alcohol level of .10,” according to the report.
Barker said about five to six years ago, students on the Student Safety Council handed out bags of sunflower seeds to students before they left on break. This was done in an effort to promote staying awake behind the wheel.
Barker said that however good sunflower seeds may be at keeping a driver awake, it is more important to take time to rest than use another distraction to stay awake.
“The number one thing I would suggest if you have to, pull over and rest,” Barker said. “Rest your eyes, but do not push it while you’re tired.”
2. Check your tires
Many different types of tires are manufactured for different weather conditions. The tread, or the grooves in the tires, are what make contact with the road.
Barker said it is important to make sure your tires have a good tread on them.
The American Automobile Association suggests on their website to keep tires properly inflated during the winter.
3. Drive slow
Rachel Meager, a sophomore studying business management, and Andrew Bird, a junior studying computer information technology, both made separate trips to Utah over the weekend of Feb. 24.
A large snowstorm came through Rexburg and created difficult traveling conditions. Meager drove slow when there was snow and ice on the road. She said she stayed a safe distance behind other cars.
Bird said he was going 50 miles per hour in a 75 mile per hour zone because road conditions were bad, but drivers continued to drive past him at high speeds.
“Yeah, there’s always idiots,” Meager said. “I just get out of their way, and I was mad because I didn’t want them to hurt me or other drivers.”
The AAA website said the margin of safety of driving behind a car should be increased to eight to ten seconds in snowy conditions, over the normal three to four seconds.
4. Put your high school physics class to the test – don’t stop
According to the AAA website, drivers should avoid stopping suddenly if they can avoid it.
“There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to stop moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling,” according to AAA.com.
Along with rolling to stops, AAA.com also suggested gaining momentum to go up hills and to not stop while driving up hills.
5. Plan Your Trips
Barker said it is important to plan out when you will stop for rest and when and where you will arrive and depart. He said to keep a family member or roommate informed on where you will be and report to them frequently.
“It’s not gonna take any more time off your life if you’re making a little bit of a travel plan,” Barker said.
Meager said she does not check the weather before she drives but her family and friends make her aware of worsening road conditions so she can adapt her route.
“There’s so many different aspects that come into driving, that’s why I say, make a plan and have proper equipment and your tires checked before you make these trips,” Barker said. “Just be prepared like we are to be in everything.”