ROAD TO ZERO

Navigating winter roads, from the guy who teaches troopers how to drive

Jan 4, 2022, 10:47 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 5:32 pm

UTAH COUNTY — He can navigate a Utah Highway Patrol cruiser through almost any harrowing turn or slide with ease, and he’s the one who teaches other troopers how to drive — even in the most dire, extreme and emergency situations.

With that kind of resume, it would seem Sgt. Nick Napierski would have special insight into the intricacies of winter driving.

“Decision-making is one of the most important things we do as police officers,” Napierski told KSL-TV Tuesday. “In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to make a wrong decision.”

Napierski trains for everything up to pit maneuvers and the most high-risk moves troopers make in their vehicles, but he still says nothing is more important on the roads in winter than the basics. 

He says that amounts to slowing down, not following too closely, and keeping eyes trained down the road.

“It’s imperative that you have your eyes up, you’re scanning 20-plus cars ahead of your location,” Napierski said.

He also said the time and distance it takes to slow down and stop properly goes up dramatically on snowy and icy roads.

“You know, you need to be maintaining that 500 to 800 feet from the car in front of you,” he said. “Driving at a high rate of speed in slick conditions — you’re destined for a crash.”

Troopers were also cautioning drivers ahead of the latest winter storm to make sure tire treads are in good condition.

Napierski additionally urged drivers to slow down and move over when troopers and other emergency personnel are working at the side of roads.

He said hopefully people are able to stay out of bad situations by simply following the fundamentals.

“We can teach drivers all day long all sorts of performance driving tactics, but at the end of the day, (it’s) slowing down, and getting your eyes up and driving cautiously,” Napierski said. “That’s going to be the best chance you have of avoiding a collision.”

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Navigating winter roads, from the guy who teaches troopers how to drive