Severe weather can be both frightening and dangerous for travelers. Winter storms, bad weather, and sloppy road conditions are a factor in nearly half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter, according to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Fortunately, you can get ready by remembering the three Ps of safe winter driving, prepare for the trip, protect yourself and others, and prevent crashes on the road.
Prepare Yourself and Your Vehicle for Winter:
- Plan your route, allow plenty of time, and leave early if the weather forecast is questionable. Make certain you are familiar with the maps/directions, and let others know your route and arrival time.
- Keep a flashlight, jumper cables, abrasive material (sand or kitty litter), a shovel, snow brush, ice scraper, warning devices (such as triangles), a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, and blankets in your vehicle. For long trips, be certain to add food, water, and medication.
- Test your battery, as battery power drops with the temperature.
- Make sure your cooling system is in good working order.
- Install winter tires with a deeper, more flexible tread.
- Check the tread on all-season tires and replace them if it’s less than 4/32 of an inch.
- Check your tire pressure, as tire pressure drops with lower temperatures.
- Check your wiper blades and replace if needed.
- Use wiper fluid rated for -30 degrees.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid the gas line freezing.
- Clean your car’s side view mirrors, windows, and external camera lenses for better visibility.
- Remove dirt, ice, and snow from sensors to allow assistive-driving features like automatic emergency braking to work properly.
- Warm up your car before you drive it when temperatures are low.
- Never leave a vehicle running in your garage even with the garage door open to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Wait out the storm whenever possible.
Protect Yourself and Others:
- Ensure everyone in your vehicle is wearing a seatbelt.
- Use child safety seats properly when travelling with children. Children 12 and under are much safer in the back seat.
- Never place a rear facing infant seat in front of an air bag.
- Avoid using cruise control in wintry conditions.
- Steer in the direction of a skid. When your wheels regain traction, you won’t have to overcorrect to stay in your lane.
- Accelerate and decelerate slowly.
- Increase your following distance to 8 to 10 seconds or more as needed.
- Don’t stop when you’re going uphill unless it is absolutely necessary.
- Don’t slam on your breaks.
- Issue a stop work, pull off the road to a safe place, and do not drive until conditions improve if your visibility is severely limited due to a whiteout. Avoid pulling off onto the shoulder unless it is an absolute emergency. Limited visibility means other vehicles can’t see you on the shoulder.
- Keep your eyes open for pedestrians.
- Avoid fatigue by getting proper rest the night before traveling.
Lastly, be sure to know your vehicle’s capabilities:
- The website My Car Does What is a national campaign to help educate drivers about the safety features built into vehicles. Search for your car to find out its safety features.
- Traction control is now standard on most new vehicles. This function helps your vehicle gain traction on snowy, icy, or wet surfaces, particularly when accelerating from a stopped or slowed position, or when trying to make it up a slippery hill.
- Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) are also standard on most new vehicles and help you steer in emergencies by restoring traction to your tires. It is normal for ABS to vibrate or pulse when engaged, just continue to press and hold the brake pedal.
- You are your car’s best safety feature. Take precautions to ensure you arrive safely at your destination. If you become stranded in an unfamiliar area, do not leave your car. Place triangles in front and behind the car and make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked by snow, mud, or other objects.
RETTEW’s Defensive Driving course helps prepare drivers for the perils of being on the road. Please contact Kelly Kramer, CECD, HEM, at 800.738.8395 for more information.
Safety training and consulting are only some of RETTEW’s 600+ services. Our safety team works hand in hand with engineers, scientists, project managers, and other technical experts at places such as manufacturing facilities, drill pads, and commercial construction sites. We are well respected in many industries and known for ensuring workers and equipment remain safe, which keeps your projects on track and your bottom line growing.