When temperatures plummet, even the most experienced drivers can have a hard time managing icy road conditions. Poor visibility coupled with reduced traction can cause dangerous road hazards that make winter driving extremely challenging. In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration reports that over a half million vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement each year.
Drivers can meet this challenge by having the right knowledge about winter driving. Here are five preventative safety measures that commercial fleet drivers can follow to keep themselves and others safe this winter:
- Monitor Road Conditions: Prepare in advance for winter weather driving. Be sure to monitor road and weather conditions prior to driving by checking a weather app, local news channels, or The National Weather Service.
- Lower Your Speed: The slower you drive, the more time you have to react. Stay slightly below the speed limit and increase your following distance to 8-10 seconds when confronted with slippery roads. Watch for the presence of black ice.
- Brake Effectively: When you're driving in snow and ice, always brake as gently as possible to avoid skidding. If the truck is not equipped with an ABS braking system, lightly pumping the brakes helps prevent losing control.
- Check Your Vehicle: Double check windshield wipers, defrosters, cooling systems, and washer reservoir. Verify that headlights, brake lights, turn signals and emergency flashers are all working properly, and be sure to refuel gas at the halfway gauge point.
- Maintain Weather Emergency Kit: Winter weather conditions can change quickly, so it’s vital to prepare ahead of time. Keep an ice scraper, broom, jumper cables and a flashlight handy in case of emergency. Consider packing sand or cat litter for stuck vehicles along with tire chains, flares, extra blankets and clothes, a phone charger, and nonperishable food/water.
For more information and advice on winter weather driving, visit NHTSA.org.