Although the snow can be beautiful, we sometimes forget how much havoc it can wreak on the roads. Slick, snowy conditions can be dangerous for drivers, making driving stressful but also risky. For commercial drivers, whose jobs depend on successful navigation through the worst road conditions, staying safe is critical not only for the driver, but for the business.
In order to ensure safe driving practices this winter, Travelers has compiled a set of guidelines for drivers to stay safe on the roads, eliminating some of the risk that comes with navigating a vehicle in frigid temperatures and slippery conditions.
Click through the following slides for Travelers’ tips for keeping drivers safe on the roads.
Planning ahead can be one of the most effective ways drivers can stay safe on the road. Make sure that the vehicle is adequately equipped for cold temperatures, snow and ice.
Before venturing out, also check the gas tank and windshield washer reservoir to be prepared for the worst conditions. Maintain at least a half tank of gas during the winter season in order to ensure a source of heat if stranded, and a full supply of washer fluid is necessary for visibility during the winter season.
Additionally, drivers should make sure that they are prepared for any foreseeable incidents. This means keeping a winter survival kit in the car, including an ice scraper, a snow shovel, jumper cables, sand or salt for the roads and a warm blanket.
For commercial companies, in particular, making sure that drivers are adequately equipped for adverse conditions allow business to continue both safely and effectively. Maintaining vehicles, conducting regular inspections, and providing proper training are just some of the ways that companies can prepare for winter weather.
“Companies should spend time training their drivers, as even experienced drivers need time to adjust to winter driving conditions. Companies can provide training at the beginning of the season to make sure their drivers are mentally prepared. The driver should feel supported by the company,” said Daniel Brown, risk control technical manager at Travelers.
Visibility is Key
Winter conditions can limit vehicle visibility. Effectively clearing the snow and ice off the vehicle is imperative for visibility and safe driving, especially if the snow is piled high or the windshield is iced over. Make sure that all windows, mirrors, lights, reflectors, hood, roof and trunk of the vehicle are clear for optimal visibility.
So that other drivers are able to see you, and so that you can better see the road ahead, drive with headlights on, and ensure that they are clean of snow and ice before departure.
However, always proceed with caution, especially when a snow banks or heavy snowfall can limit your view of the road and any oncoming traffic.
Be Smart while Behind the Wheel
Those on the road during a snowstorm should be adequately experienced in driving in wintry conditions. Knowing how to brake on slippery surfaces in imperative in these situations, as vehicles with anti-lock brakes operate much differently from those that do not have anti-lock breaks.
If driving a vehicle with which you are unfamiliar, or if you are unsure of how the vehicle will perform in slippery conditions, consult the owner’s manual for instructions on how to brake properly if the vehicle starts to skid.
Drivers should also avoid using cruise control in snowy situations. Conditions can change quickly, and drivers need to have as much control over the vehicle as possible.
Additionally, drivers should keep in mind that speed limits are meant for dry roads, not those covered with snow or ice. If visibility is low, or you feel road conditions begin to worsen, reduce your speed and be alert. Bridges and overpasses are areas, in particular, where drivers should exercise caution, as they are commonly the first areas to become icy.
Commercial driver should take extra precautions in order to prevent incidents on the road.
“Commercial vehicles are larger, which can lead to more serious accidents,” said Brown. “These drivers should take extra precautions. Slowing down, maintaining a greater than normal following distance, scanning ahead for problems on the road, and focusing on the road and the vehicle are important during adverse weather, especially since driving distractions can lead to accidents.”
Before heading out, be sure to monitor road and weather conditions by checking local news stations or internet traffic sites. If conditions are expected to worsen, consider delaying your trip or changing your route to ensure the safest excursion.
If you must travel, though, tell a relative, friend or coworker know where you are headed and when you expect to arrive. If problems do occur on the road, it is best to stay put and wait for help. But make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow, as there is a danger of carbon monoxide poisoning if snow blocks the pipe and the gas builds up in the car. Opening the window slightly can also prevent this.
Be diligent when driving on winter roads, and if conditions are poor, be sure to take extra precautions to ensure your safety. Being prepared for the worst road conditions ahead of time can help make the drive a little less stressful, but being careful, attentive and smart on the road is essential when navigating conditions that are not ideal.
This, however, can be more difficult for commercial drivers, since companies are often dependent on deliveries and drivers making their appointments. In these situations, fleet managers and dispatchers need to take proper precaution to maintain efficiency, but also keeping driver safety in mind.
“Fleet managers play an important role in bad-weather situations. Dispatchers dictate what drivers are required to do and they need to set the stage for the drivers by planning ahead. Appointments are a big factor, and dispatchers need to set the appointments so that drivers can meet them realistically,” Brown said.
“Drivers should feel supported, not rushed. Companies should make safety a whole-company initiative. From operations, to maintenance, to management, be on board with supporting the driver and make sure he has everything he needs.”