Winter driving comes with a host of challenges. With snowy conditions already popping up in parts of the country, now is a good time to review the proper techniques for operating in adverse conditions to help reduce winter driving risks:
• Perform a thorough pre-trip inspection before any trip. The problems of traveling in winter weather will only be compounded if your vehicle fails to operate properly.
• Be observant. You can help avoid trouble if you use your observation powers and recognize hazards early. Look well ahead – 12-15 seconds minimally and up to 20-30 seconds, if possible.
Stay aware of other drivers, especially in areas where motorists aren’t used to dealing with harsh winter conditions.
• Turn on your low beam headlights to see and be seen. If necessary, stop in a safe location to clear headlights, taillights, and reflectors of snow and ice. Beware of other drivers who are not using their headlights. Use your windshield wipers and defroster to maximize visibility.
• Slow down, even if the roads have been sanded or salted. In very severe conditions, it can be reasonable to reduce your speed by 75% of the speed limit. A slower speed will give you more time to react to hazards.
• Maintain a cushion of space. Keep a safe distance between you and the vehicles around you according to the conditions of the pavement. This extra space is necessary if you begin to
skid or when you have to stop. Watch carefully for snowplows and give equipment operators plenty of room to work.
• Make all moves, whether accelerating, slowing, turning or changing lanes, gradually. Sudden and/or abrupt moves can easily cause a loss of control. As an additional safety precaution, give more warning than usual to other drivers when turning, stopping or changing lanes.
• Keep alert for changes in a road’s surface that may affect traction. If your tires become quiet, you may be unexpectedly driving on a slick surface. If the back surface of your side mirror is icy, chances are the road will be as well. Be extra careful when approaching shaded areas, bridges, and overpasses, because these sections of road freeze much sooner in cold, wet weather and stay frozen long after the sun has risen. Watch for vehicles having problems with conditions and assume other drivers may do something unexpected.
• If conditions become hazardous, get off the road. Pull over to a safe and legal parking place as soon as you can and stay in touch with your company dispatch for any additional assistance needed. Remember, trips taken in adverse conditions are simply going to take longer and the safe driver is the one who plans ahead. Get the weather forecast before heading out and frequently along the way. Buckle up, stay alert, add more space around your vehicle and above all, SLOW DOWN!