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SALT LAKE CITY — When a snowstorm blows in like it did Monday, officials said it’s typical to have 200 car crashes along the Wasatch Front. But that storm caused extra traffic trouble for drivers and first responders.
State troopers were scrambling from crash to crash and said they need some help from the driving public to cut down on crashes during severe weather that’s set to hit Utah Thanksgiving week.
“You need to make a call to 911,” said Sergeant Nick Street with the Utah Highway Patrol. “But the most beneficial thing you can do for yourself and you can do for the first responders that are trying to help you is to drive your car off the interstate, if it’s possible.”
If you cannot drive your car, Street said to stay in your car with your seatbelt on until a trooper arrives.
“Don’t try to get out. Don’t try to assess the damage right away,” he said. “This is when we see members of the public getting hurt too.”
If there is another driver involved in the crash, try to make eye contact so they see what you’re doing.
“We grew up thinking, don’t leave the scene of a crash, that’s a crime. But, if you’re out there on I-15, if there’s a snowstorm, and you’re involved in a fender bender, get off the side of the road get off the next exit,” said UDOT spokesperson John Gleason.
UHP troopers responded to 349 crashes statewide Monday — 80 of those happened after 7 p.m.
Wet roads and freezing conditions have set up black ice conditions across the Wasatch Front. If you are on the freeways, we really need you to slow down, and expect extremely slick conditions. Please help our troopers get crashes safely off the road. https://t.co/aYKuSblJN2— Michael Rapich (@ColonelRapich) November 26, 2019
Those crashes involved over a dozen cars that caused a series of crashes on I-215 in Taylorsville.
It was a dangerous situation for anybody on the road, including the troopers. Five troopers were hit and two of their cars were totaled. None were seriously hurt and most of them were inside their patrol cars when they were hit.
Trooper Riley Rugg barely dove out of the way when a sliding vehicle crashed into his patrol car on the side of I-15 in Salt Lake County.
“I was watching traffic, and I saw a vehicle start to slide,” Rugg said.
He was helping a crash victim get things out of her car on northbound I-15 near 7200 South.
“Kind of last minute, I was able to run around the front of the person’s car and jump over the wall before they impacted my car,” Rugg said.
The impact of the collision kicked his patrol car into drive, which rolled across the lanes of traffic, and ran into the opposite wall.
Rugg was not hurt, but the close call is something he won’t soon forget.
“Maybe my life was flashing before my eyes,” he said.
That’s why UHP officials said they need everyone to drive off of the interstate after a crash, if possible.
“If their vehicles are drivable, it’s the safest for them and for us for them to get off the road,” Rugg said.
Call 911, tell the dispatcher where you are exiting and the trooper will come find you. If you cannot drive your car, stay in your car with your seatbelt on until the trooper gets there.
Trooper Harrison Coy was at home with his wife last night when he was called in to help because of the number of crashes. The first crash he came to was near Point of the Mountain.
“I had cones set up. I had flares out,” he said. “You could see me for about a mile and a half.”
He was sitting in his patrol car, waiting for a tow truck, when he heard a crash behind him.
“I looked in my mirror as I saw it coming and it slammed into the back of my patrol car,” Coy said.
He went to the hospital to get checked out because of the force of the collision.
“My neck and my back were a little sore from the whiplash,” he said. “But I’m feeling better today.”
The majority of the crashes Monday should have been handled off the interstate, he said.
“The less we’re on the shoulder, the less we’re blocking lanes on the freeway during a storm on the freeway, the less likely we are to get hit and get hurt,” Coy said.