Traffic laws in Cottonwood canyons frustrate drivers

Feb 10, 2023, 7:03 PM | Updated: 7:38 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s been a winter full of snowstorms and powder days, but also a season of traffic headaches for drivers in the Cottonwood canyons.

Some of the frustrations have focused on Utah’s traction law, which requires that during winter driving conditions vehicles have appropriate traction devices.

Four-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicles must also have mud and snow tires or chains. Two-wheel drive vehicles must have snow tires (3PMSF) or chains.

On Monday, Sean Zahm went to social media to share his concerns about the lack of enforcement of the traction law in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

“Not a single tire checked,” he said in his Instagram post. “I’m going to be up here all day and stuck because someone’s going to slide off.”

In an interview with KSL, Zahm, a professional snowboard instructor, said it just takes one vehicle to cause a traffic nightmare or a danger for everyone else.

“Many people who have the wrong vehicles and everything, they don’t know that they can’t just pull to the side of the road and put their hazards on,” he said.

Zahm wondered why he went through the pre-inspection process to receive a sticker from the Utah Department of Transportation to show that his vehicle has the proper traction devices for the canyons.

“There needs to be enforcement,” he said. “I mean, if we’re lining up outside the canyon for hours, maybe they can check tires while we’re waiting.”

A spokesperson for Unified Police Department, which patrols the canyons, said they understand the problems caused by ill-prepared vehicles traveling in Big and Little Cottonwood canyons during snowstorms.

“We absolutely share your frustration,” said Sgt. Melody Cutler.

However, Cutler said it’s not realistic and that the agency does not have the staffing to check each vehicle.

“Three to five minutes per vehicle,” Cutler said. “So the traffic that that would cause is going to be much more significant than the one with people just traveling up the canyon.”

But enforcement of the traction law is happening in the form of tickets.

“If there’s a slide-off and you are in violation of a traction [law], you are getting a citation—no question asked,” Cutler said.

Both sides said another issue is that the traction law only goes into effect for current winter conditions not predicted storms.

“Like today, you can drive any vehicle you want up this canyon and it’s not a problem,” Cutler said on Friday, which had sunny weather. “Even if there’s a forecast that in two hours from now we’re going to have a giant snowstorm. So you go up the canyon with your two-wheel drive vehicle and bald tires and it starts to snow.”

Cutler said not to assume that your SUV is four-wheel, or all-wheel drive. She said the issue is further complicated by visitors with rental cars or people using rideshare to get to the ski resorts.

“If you are visiting from out-of-town and renting a vehicle, check with the rental company to verify that your vehicle is equipped with four-wheel drive (4WD) or all-wheel drive (AWD) and the correct tires,” said UDOT’s website.



KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Road to Zero

Weber head-on collision...
Cary Schwanitz

1 killed in fiery head-on collision in Weber County; 2 dead in crash near Saltair

One person died in a fiery head-on crash on I-15 in the Riverdale area early Sunday, the Utah Highway Patrol said.
3 days ago
Water drain...
Katija Stjepovic, Cary J. Schwanitz

UDOT clearing debris to prevent highway flooding

Earlier this year snow was a big danger for drivers but now it’s becoming rain and wet roads.
5 days ago
Three people died in this Kane County crash...
Andrew Adams

Family remembers two loved ones killed in crash near Kanab

Family members on Thursday remembered loved ones killed in a triple-fatal crash in Kane County.
6 days ago
Traffic on Interstate 80 in Crockett, California, on June 9. The National Transportation Safety Boa...
Katija Stjepovic

Drowsy driving cases on the rise in Utah

A new AAA study shows many of us don't know how sleepy we are behind the wheel.
9 days ago
Madison Swenson

Tips for driving safely after daylight saving time change

Daylight saving is Sunday, which means it's time to move our clocks forward an hour. The change may impact our traveling abilities, so here are some tips to keep you safe out on the roads, courtesy of Zero Fatalities.
19 days ago
school crossing...
Katija Stjepovic

Utah lawmakers consider return of photo radar

A new bill before the legislature would bring photo radar back to Utah as speeding in construction and school zones becomes a growing safety concern.
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

Stack of old laptops with dark background...
PC Laptops

Old Laptop Upgrades You Need to Try Before Throwing it Away

Get the most out of your investment. Try these old laptop upgrades before throwing it out to keep it running fast and efficient.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Close up of an offset printing machine during production...
Les Olson IT

Top 7 Reasons to Add a Production Printer to Your Business

Learn about the different digital production printers and how they can help your company save time and money.
vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
Traffic laws in Cottonwood canyons frustrate drivers