Winter Driving Tips

Date: January 26, 2021

Carrie Kolodji, Risk Control Analyst

The Three P's

Winter driving can be hazardous, particularly for colder, northern regions. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, "Over 1,300 people are killed, and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy or icy pavement annually." Taking precautions can help make a trip safer and provide aid if an emergency occurs. Follow the three P's of safe winter driving: prepare for the trip, protect yourself, and prevent crashes on the road.

Prepare For Your Trip

Before starting your trip, clear your vehicle from any windshield frost, snow, or ice. A pre-trip inspection should also be completed. Check the vehicle's battery, tire tread, and windshield wipers. Add no-freeze fluid in the washer reservoir, and check your antifreeze. Maintain the fuel level above half a tank when possible.

During the winter months, keep items such as a flashlight, lighter, jumper cables, abrasive material (sand, kitty litter, even floor mats), shovel, snow brush and ice scraper, warning devices (like flares) and blankets on hand. For longer trips, carry food and water, medication and a cell phone with charger.

If stopped or stalled due to the road conditions, stay with your vehicle. Do not overexert attempting to "become unstuck." Put bright markers on the antenna or windows to increase visibility. If you keep your vehicle running, be sure to clear the exhaust pipe and run it just long enough to stay warm.

Allow plenty of time to travel to your destination. Check the weather and leave early if necessary. It is always a good idea to let others know your route and arrival time.

Don't forget to practice cold weather driving.

  • Become familiar with your vehicle's safety features that will assist you in inclement weather.
  • Be aware of what your brakes will do. Stomp on anti-lock brakes or pump non-antilock brakes.
  • During daylight, rehearse maneuvering slowly on the ice or snow in an empty lot. This is especially important when hauling trailers.
  • Remember that stopping distances are longer on snowy, icy roads and can vary depending on the weight of your load.
  • Know how to recover from a skid.

Protect Yourself 

The most important way to protect yourself is by buckling up. Vehicle drivers and passengers can also shield themselves from the elements by wearing waterproof, winter clothing in case of an emergency. Finally, don't idle for a long time with the windows up or in an enclosed space.

Prevent Crashes on the Road

Staying safe on the road and preventing crashes can save lives. Use these safety reminders for winter weather driving.

  • In inclement weather, do not use cruise control. Avoid abrupt movements, use your turn signal well in advance of a turn, and drive with low-beam headlights on.
  • Slow down and increase following distances from other vehicles.
  • Keep your eyes open for stalled vehicles or pedestrians walking in the road.
  • Avoid fatigue. Get plenty of rest before the trip. Stop at least every three hours, and rotate drivers if possible.
  • Avoid distractions.
  • Don't drink and drive.
  • Refrain from texting while driving, and use a hands-free device when talking on your cell phone.

Take precautions and drive safe this winter. To learn more about keeping your employees safe on the road and on the job, consult with a BITCO agent. We are here for you!

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For information purposes only. BITCO's blog content does not address all potential circumstances and is not a substitute for business, safety, or legal consultation.

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