Kirby: Snow has fallen, as has Utah drivers' intelligence

This is an archived article that was published on in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

We got hammered by snow Friday morning. Nearly a foot of the evil stuff fell on my home in Herriman. It snapped branches, pulled down bird feeders and flattened bushes.

The only people I know who were happy about the snow were my grandkids. They rolled out a snowman the size of Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin "Megatron" Johnson except that it was white and really slow.

I was supposed to go downtown Friday morning but lucked out. Car trouble kept me home. It could have been a miracle. There's no better time to find a traffic crash needing another participant than during the first snow of the winter season.

It's a matter of Utah physics. You can't combine the "Greatest Snow on Earth" with the "Worst Drivers in the Universe" and not expect disaster.

Note: I don't really believe we're the worst drivers in the universe. I only wrote that because it sounded poetic. Truthfully we're the fourth worst drivers in the universe. Figure it out.

Hint: Third worst are the inhabitants of planet Addle Pate II, a world made entirely of asphalt and cell phone towers that is, thank goodness, too far away for them to commute here.

Never mind that. This is about seasonal stupidity of drivers, including you and me.

When I was a cop, I hated working the first snowstorm of the winter season. It was like everyone had to learn to drive in the snow all over again. We went from accident to accident.

Motorist: "It's not my fault. It's the #%*&@ snow's fault!"

Me: "OK, take the snow to court."

I once handled a single accident involving nine vehicles, none of which were traveling faster than 4 mph on a road surface with the friction co-efficiency of mucous.

Not that I was all that better of a driver. During a light snowstorm I hit a fully loaded Dumpster with a police car. That took some explaining to my watch commander.

Granted, a Dumpster isn't the sort of thing you normally encounter in the middle of the road even when the road is dry. However, when the road is suddenly slippery, you have to be ready for anything.

Anything includes an item that a garbage truck driver might be pushing across a slippery parking lot and subsequently onto the road.

Back then I didn't have the luxury of staying home when it snowed. I had to join the fray on opening day. Just like the rest of you, I had to learn the hard way in making the transition.

First rule for the first snowstorm is to slow down. The sign on the highway might say "55 mph," but when it snows the real speed limit automatically drops to "existing conditions per hour."

So, if you were only going 25 mph in a 55 mph zone but still managed to skid 100 yards into a horse, you were technically speeding.

Second rule is to avoid distractions. A snow-packed roadway requires more of your meager attention than a dry one.

When your vehicle starts swapping ends at 40 mph, you're going to want to know about it immediately rather than after you hang up or stop eating.

Third and final rule of the season's first snow commute is to stay home while everyone else is trying to reacquire their inclement weather driving skills.

Again we're talking physics. In all the years I was a cop, I never once saw someone get into a crash who wasn't on the road.

Robert Kirby can be reached at or