After responding to nearly 600 accidents over five days, Utah troopers remind motorists to slow down in bad weather

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Capt. Jeff Nigbur, Utah Highway Patrol's Salt Lake County bureau chief, urges drivers to slow down when the weather is bad, during a news conference, Monday, Dec. 2, 2019.

After responding to nearly 600 accidents over five days, the Utah Highway Patrol is pleading with drivers to slow down when the roads are covered in ice and snow.

Between Wednesday, Nov. 27, and Sunday, Dec. 1 — when Utah was hit with major snowstorms — emergency personnel responded to 598 accidents, UHP Capt. Jeff Nigbur said Monday.

“That does not include the Monday [Nov. 25] storm," he said, "which basically turned [Interstate 15] and most of the freeways into an ice skating rink.”

Most of the accidents — 350 — occurred along the Wasatch Front between Ogden and Payson, he said. Two crashes were fatal, killing four people.

Last year, over the same five-day period, there were 434 accidents and one crash that resulted in a fatality. In 2018, there weren’t blizzard-type conditions.

Nigbur said the pileups struck close to home as 10 UHP vehicles were hit — although none of the accidents was life-threatening.

"One of the things that burned me the most ... was that a few people who got in a crash complained that UDOT didn’t clear the road enough or they didn’t put down enough salt [to melt] the ice,” Nigbur said. “When, in fact, the main problem is your driving behavior and you didn’t slow down enough for the conditions that were in hand.”

Nigbur recounted an especially “horrendous” moment when he heard one of his troopers screaming over the radio. A speeding driver had lost control on the icy road, slamming into a UHP patrol car and sending it across the freeway, where it was hit a second time by a speeding car.

“That just absolutely scared me to death as a supervisor,” he said. “I didn’t know if my trooper was hurt or injured.”

The trooper was not in the car at the time and was unharmed. Still, UHP doesn’t like dealing with close calls like that. “We want you to slow down, Nigbur said, “and move over for emergency lights.”

For those that do get into a fender-bender, Nigbur suggests driving to the next exit “to get off the freeway and out of harm’s way."