Winter weather is upon us, and with it are unpredictable driving conditions. With snow and ice, high winds and freezing temperatures, even routine routes have the potential to become treacherous. Stay safe on the road this season with the following winter driving tips courtesy of Roadmaster.
Winter weather can be unpredictable. Live by the Boy Scout motto and always be prepared. Even if the forecast looks benign at the start of your trip, taking extra precautions can save you quite a bit of trouble should a surprise storm roll your way.
Be sure to pack proper clothing, including gloves, rain gear and a warm coat; a flashlight; a blanket; extra food and water; a bag of sand, cat litter (for traction) and extra windshield wiper fluid; jumper cables; traction mats or tire chains; and a windshield scraper. It’s also wise to keep your tank filled with at least a half-tank of gas during the colder months.
2) Be thorough in your pre-trip inspection
All drivers should complete a thorough pre-trip inspection before hitting the road; and this is particularly important for truckers. Be sure to conduct a hands-on inspection and check all the essentials, including lights, fluids, wiper blades and tires. When the temperature is cooler, it’s also wise to check your vehicle more frequently than you might during more temperate seasons.
3) Keep your distance
Make sure to allow plenty of space between your vehicle and others. Keep enough distance to ensure you can move out of harm’s way in the event of an accident or other hazard.
4) Drive more slowly
A considerable number of accidents occur because drivers are going too fast for road conditions, especially during the winter. Driving a bit more slowly will provide you with more reaction time. You’re much more likely to hydroplane or lose control when traveling at a higher speed.
5) Get a grip
Sharp, sudden moves like those caused by ice patches or wind gusts can cause you to lose control of the vehicle. Hold you steering wheel firmly with both hands to maintain greater control.
6) Brake and accelerate gently
Anti-locking Braking Systems (ABS) can be excellent tools when used properly. If your vehicle has an ABS, press and hold the brake down as far as possible in case of emergency. The ABS will prevent the wheels from locking, enabling you to circumvent obstacles. If you don’t have ABS, pump your brakes lightly in the event you need to slow down quickly or are driving on a slippery road. This will reduce the chance of your tires locking and spinning out of control.
7) Look out for black ice
Black ice is one of the more menacing winter weather hazards as it can be difficult to spot until it’s too late. This thin, transparent layer of ice forms when the temperature is near freezing. It often makes the road appear wet, rather than icy. Don’t assume that a sunny day means a lack of ice. Often temperatures are lower with a lack of cloud coverage. One clue signaling black ice may be present is ice build-up on the vehicle’s mirror arms, antennas or the top corners of the windshield. You can also safely assume black ice is on the road if the spray from tires or vehicles in front of you stops.
8) Be careful at mountain passes
Weather conditions in the mountains can be some of the most severe and unpredictable during the winter. Be prepared for wind gusts and keep an eye out for snow plows and emergency vehicles. If at all possible avoid stopping in avalanche hazard zones. You’ll also need to be ready to chain up your tires if necessary.
9) Be cautious approaching bridges
Elevated structures are usually some of the first to freeze. And many are not treated with ice or snow melting materials, like salt or sand. Black ice is a common problem on bridges, and can cause vehicles to quickly spin out of control if the driver is unaware of its presence.
10) If stranded, stay in the vehicle
If you slide off the road or are stranded in a blizzard and cannot see a place to seek assistance, stay where you are. It’s easy to lose your way in a storm, especially in an unfamiliar area, and you may get lost easily. Bundle up and keep moving (walking around the truck, jogging in place, etc.) to stay warm. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow and open a downwind window slightly for ventilation to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Only run your engine for 10-15 minutes each hour.
11) Obey all road signs
Signs and safety warnings are posted for a reason. If the speed limit on a curve is posted at 35 mph, that means testing has determined that is the maximum safe speed for any vehicle.
12) If conditions are too severe, get off the road
Use your best judgment. Listen to weather reports and warnings and react in kind. It’s better to be safe than sorry! If you do need to stop, be sure to be in touch with your manager to let him or her know why you’re shutting down, and to alert them as to your location in case of emergency.