Jay Dortzbach, Deseret News
Jeff Reynolds, with UDOT's Incident Management Team, helps a stranded driver on I-15 Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. The driver ran out of gas, and Reynolds gave him a gallon of gas so they could drive off the freeway to the nearest gas station.

SALT LAKE CITY — With a series of snowstorms hitting the state, the Utah Department of Transportation wants to make sure drivers are prepared for the snowy conditions.

Jeff Reynolds is part of UDOT's incident management team trained to spot cars on the side of the road and offer assistance.

At no cost to the driver, Reynolds and his team of seven patrol I-15 morning to night, stopping when they see someone in distress.

The team assists anywhere from 800 to 1,000 drivers each month. On Wednesday, the snowy, slushy and icy conditions caused more than 100 to call for help.

People going too fast is the biggest reason for accidents, Reynolds said.

“Just slow down, leave a little bit more room in front of them,” he said, “and they’ll make it to where they are going."

Reynolds and his team are used to helping drivers who have a dead battery, have run out of gas or have a flat tire.

“We have jacks (and) power tools. We can change them a lot quicker and get them on their way,” he said. “The longer we sit on the side of the road, it’s just more dangerous for both of us.”

If a driver gets stranded on the freeway, Reynolds said, they should call 911 and dispatchers will send a member of his team or contact the Utah Highway Patrol to help.

“You’re safest in your vehicle. Keep your seat belt on and make the phone call. We’ll get to you as soon as we can,” Reynolds said.

Before drivers even head out on the road, AAA recommends they have a few essential items in their car: a flashlight with extra batteries, window washer solution, cloth or paper towels, jumper cables, warning devices such as road flares or triangles, drinking water and food, and a first-aid kit.

During the winter, AAA also recommends drivers have a bag of sand, salt or cat litter to help with traction, as well as a snow shovel, ice scraper and small broom to keep windows and car clear of snow. Tire chains also are recommended, as are gloves, hats, blankets and extra clothing.

Contributing: Devon Dolan

Email: vvo-duc@deseretnews.com