Each year, winter storms cover US roadways with snow, sleet, and freezing rain. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) over 70 percent of US roads are located in snowy regions. Beyond causing traffic jams and business closings, winter weather creates driving conditions that are a serious risk to the safety of drivers and their passengers.
Winter driving hazards are especially challenging in heavy snowfall regions like New England. An illustrated map from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that nearly all of New England gets more than 25 inches of snow each year and the majority gets 50 or more inches.
As the weather gets ugly, drivers need to take extra caution to stay safe when visibility is low, roads are slippery, and vehicles are harder to maneuver. Unfortunately, across the US winter weather continues to play a role in a large number of injuries and deaths each year. The FHWA reports that “over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy or icy pavement annually.”
For businesses with commercial vehicles, winter conditions can create an increased risk to employee safety and to the company. That’s why it’s important to promote safe driving practices and behaviors among employees that operate company vehicles. This involves taking the right steps to prepare to drive as well as performing safe behaviors during the drive to reduce risk of accident or injury. Here are some key tips to consider:
How to prepare for winter driving
Here are some tips to get ready for winter driving:
Plan your drive: Plan your driving in advance and avoid driving when fatigued. Plan your arrival time at a destination by taking into account any delays due to slower traffic, reduced visibility, roadblocks, abandoned automobiles, collisions, etc. Inform someone of your route and planned arrival time.
Check the weather forecast: Contact your provincial “road reports” to get updates on road conditions in the region you are driving. Check weather conditions for your travel route (and time) before you begin driving.
Prepare your vehicle: Remove all snow and ice from your vehicle. Warm up your vehicle before driving off, which reduces moisture condensing on the inside of the windows. But, never warm up your vehicle in a closed garage.
Dress warm and bring your cellphone: Choose warm and comfortable clothing. If you need to remove outdoor clothing later while driving, stop the vehicle in a safe spot. Wear sunglasses on bright sunny days. Bring a cell phone if you have one, but do not leave it in the car as the battery will freeze.
How to drive safely in winter weather
Here are some tips to stay safe on the road:
Control your speed: Slow down! Posted speed limits are for ideal travel conditions. Driving at reduced speeds is the best precautionary measure against any misfortune while driving on slippery roads. Reduce your speed while approaching intersections covered with ice or snow. Also, be aware and slow down when you see a sign warning that you are approaching a bridge. Steel and concrete bridges are likely to be icy even when there is no ice on the asphalt surface.
Use the right vehicle features: Buckle up before you start driving. Keep your seat belt buckled at all times. Do not use cruise control. Winter driving requires you to be in full control at all times. Drive with low-beam headlights on. Not only are they brighter than daytime running lights, but turning them on also activates the tail lights. This makes your vehicle more visible.
Drive carefully and be patient: Steer with smooth and precise movements. Changing lanes too quickly and jerky steering while braking or accelerating can cause skidding. Be patient and pass other cars only when it is safe to do so.
Drive in the correct lane and keep your distance: Stay in the right-hand lane except when passing, and use turn signals when changing lanes. Lengthen your following distance behind the vehicle ahead of you. Stopping distance on an icy road is double that of stopping on a dry one. For example, from around 45 meters (140ft) at the speed of 60 km/h, to 80 meters (over 260ft) on an icy road surface.
Be aware of hazardous conditions: Be alert. “Black ice” is invisible and will make a road look like shiny new asphalt. Pavement should look grey-white in the winter. Allow for extra travelling time or even consider delaying a trip if the weather is inclement. Consider getting off the road before getting stranded if the weather is getting worse.
When people drive in winter conditions, there will always be some level of risk. However, employers and employees can do a lot to protect themselves by promoting safe driving practices. With the right precautions before the drive and the right behaviors on the road, winter driving can be considerably safer. For those who haven’t yet, it’s the time start a conversation about staying safe on winter roads.
Acadia Insurance is pleased to share this material with its customers. Please note, however, that nothing in this document should be construed as legal advice or the provision of professional consulting services. This material is for general informational purposes only, and while reasonable care has been utilized in compiling this information, no warranty or representation is made as to accuracy or completeness.