Winter Weather Driving

Date: January 20, 2020

Nancy Rigby, BITCO Home Office Technical Specialist, Risk Control

6 tips to help keep you and your employees safe 

Vehicle pile-ups and accidents are a common occurrence during the winter months.

In fact, the U.S Department of Transportation estimates that snow, slush, sleet, fog or icy roads are to blame for 21 percent of the 5.8 million vehicle crashes and 5,000 deaths that occur every year.

Education is a critical factor in keeping your employees safe on the roads during the winter months. By sharing these tips, you can help instill a safety-focused culture and help your fleet’s drivers understand the importance they play in staying safe on the roads.

Prepare your vehicle

First, empower your employees to proactively prepare their vehicle for winter driving – whether it is a heavy truck, utility truck or standard car. This includes using driving chains when states permit them, checking tire pressure and ensuring antifreeze levels are full. Another important step before starting to drive in winter weather is to clear snow and ice from windows, lights, the hood and the roof.

Keep your distance

Roads covered in ice, snow or sleet don’t provide much traction – making it harder for vehicles to slow down. Drivers should compensate for the lack of traction by maintaining a slower speed. Ensure that your employees leave ample room between their vehicle and the vehicle in front of them. During a winter storm, drivers should stay back twice the normal distance to prepare for any unpredictable situations.

You can also have a good idea of road conditions by looking at the tires of the vehicles around you. If those tires are spraying water, the road is wet. If the tire spray isn’t that high, the road is likely icy.

Avoid sudden movements

When drivers slam on their brakes while the road is slick, they could lose traction and cause even more of a problem. To slow down suddenly, pump your brakes lightly. Likewise, don’t quickly accelerate or take a corner too fast. Drivers should maintain a consistent speed and give themselves time to react.

Ensure a clear view

Winter weather conditions can often mean poor visibility. Make sure your drivers understand that their safety is more important than whatever task or delivery they’re trying to accomplish.

If visibility is low but still safe to drive in, ensure that drivers use their headlights. High visibility tape and amber lights can also help ensure other drivers see them.

Be prepared for an emergency

Accidents and roadway problems can cause drivers to get stopped on the roadway for long periods of time. They may even get stuck in their vehicle during a blizzard. That is why it’s essential to carry an emergency kit in every vehicle. The kit should include nonperishable food, bottled water, a first aid kit, blanket, reflective blanket and a flashlight.

Likewise, encourage your employees to keep their mobile devices fully charged. Carrying an extra set of clothes, bedding, gloves, and suitable boots would be a good idea too.

Ensure you’re safe when stranded

If your employee ever was stranded during a snowstorm, there are some specific safety measures to follow:

  • Stay in the vehicle and wait for help.
  • Run the vehicle’s heater for ten minutes every hour.
  • Ensure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow so there is not a danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Open the windows slightly for ventilation.

If you want to learn more about keeping your employees safe on the road and on the  job, consult with a BITCO agent and find out more information.

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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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