While the official start of winter is still weeks away, snow has already made an appearance in some parts of the country. The combination of harsh weather with the bustling traffic of the holiday season sets the stage for an increased risk of vehicular accidents on the road. To help ensure your safety and reduce the risks associated with winter driving during the holiday season, it's crucial to review and apply proper techniques for operating in adverse conditions:
Perform a thorough pre-trip inspection. In addition to the tires, pay extra attention to your lights, brakes, windshield wipers, defroster, and radiator. The problems of traveling in winter weather during the holiday season will only be compounded if your vehicle fails to operate properly.
Plan your route carefully, opting for well-maintained and major roads whenever possible. These roads are more likely to be plowed and salted during winter storms. Allow extra travel time, and be mindful of hours of service limitations. Only use a global positioning system (GPS) or navigation app tailored to commercial vehicle needs with up-to-date mapping data.
Check the forecast before departing and frequently along the way. Staying informed about changing weather conditions can help you make safer decisions while on the road.
Carry a winter storm survival kit in your vehicle. This kit should include essentials such as a cell phone and charger, a flashlight with extra batteries, first aid supplies, extra clothing, a blanket, non-perishable food, bottled water, a windshield scraper/brush, lock de-icer, a compact shovel, and prescription medications, if needed. Being well-equipped can provide peace of mind during lengthy delays.
Recognize hazards early by keeping your eyes moving and your attention on the road. Look well ahead—12-15 seconds minimally and up to 20-30 seconds. Also, keep in mind that holiday season travelers and other drivers may not be accustomed to harsh winter conditions.
Use your low beam headlights, even during daylight hours, to see and be seen. If necessary, stop in a safe location to clear snow and ice from headlights, taillights and reflectors. Utilize your windshield wipers and defroster to maximize visibility.
Slow down, regardless whether the roads have been treated. In severe conditions, it can be reasonable to reduce your speed by 75% of the speed limit. Slower speeds provide more time to react to hazards.
Keep a safe distance between you and others based on road conditions. This extra space is crucial if you start to skid or need to stop suddenly. Be cautious around snowplows, and provide ample room for equipment operators to work.
Make all driving maneuvers—accelerating, slowing, turning, and changing lanes—gradually and smoothly. Abrupt movements can lead to a loss of control. Provide extra warning to other drivers when making turns, stopping, or changing lanes.
Stay alert for changes in the road's surface that may affect traction. Silent tires could indicate a slick surface. Icy side mirrors suggest the road may be icy as well. Exercise caution in shaded areas and on bridges and overpasses, as these surfaces freeze more quickly and stay frozen longer.
If conditions become too dangerous, discontinue driving until it’s safe to proceed (49 CFR §392.14). Pull over to a safe and legal location, and stay in contact with your company dispatch for assistance.
Winter driving demands a cautious and prepared approach. By proactively maintaining your vehicle, adjusting your driving behavior and staying informed about road conditions, you can significantly reduce the risks associated with winter driving and enjoy a safe and joyful holiday season.
Article provided by Lancer Insurance co.