WSDOT: Drivers need to be prepared heading over the passes

Dec 8, 2022, 2:53 PM
Photo from Flickr

After a series of multi-hour closures on Interstate 90, including a 15-car collision Sunday, a 38-car collision Wednesday, and now three semi crashes Thursday, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) says drivers are not prepared enough to drive across the mountain passes with winter weather conditions.

WSDOT spokesperson Summer Derry says drivers need to use caution and proper winter driving strategies, which have been causing delays on the road.

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“Our job at the Washington State Department of Transportation is certainly to keep the highway open. And we do that to the best of our ability. A lot of this comes down onto drivers,” Derry said. “I think that giving yourself plenty of safe following distance. Slowing down driving for conditions is certainly something that drivers should follow, especially during winter months.”

Snoqualmie Pass has already been closed for a total of 30 hours this fall, which WSDOT said doesn’t normally happen until late December.

Washington state has had an increased amount of snowfall in the passes earlier in the season than we do in a typical year, with 100 inches of snow so far — a quarter of the total amount of snowfall that the Cascade passes get for the entire year on average.

Now more than ever, WSDOT says it is time for inexperienced drivers to stay prepared in slick, slippery conditions. It’s a learning opportunity, especially for young drivers who have never driven in the snow before.

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“I also think that there’s an opportunity here for younger drivers,” Derry said. “Snow and ice is not something that you can learn on your phone or on YouTube. This takes years of practice. And so really having parents and caregivers spending quite a bit of time with their young drivers, taking them to an empty parking lot spinning out for a couple of hours, really teaching themselves how to navigate in the snow.”

One of Derry’s biggest recommendations is for drivers to stock up on supplies in their cars to be prepared if they get stuck.

“I’m stuck in my car for a couple of hours, what am I going to need? I’m going to need to stay warm, I need a full tank of gas. I’m going to need snacks,” Derry said. “That preparedness component is important. There are a bunch of various small rural scenic cities, such as Eastern Hyack, with very limited resources. So if you crash, it’ll be several hours before someone comes to help you.”

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WSDOT: Drivers need to be prepared heading over the passes