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Posted November 26, 2018

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Driving Safely in Winter Weather

When your day-to-day business operations depend on company vehicles, driving safely in winter weather becomes an annual challenge. As the winter season begins, many of us could use a gentle reminder: winter driving can be deadly. Now is the time to prepare your vehicles for the colder months and revisit best practices for yourself as well as your employees.

 

On September 17, 2018, the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration updated its statistics about weather impacts on driving safety. On average, 21 percent of all vehicle crashes—over 1.2 million—are weather related. Of those weather-related vehicle crashes, 18 percent occur during snow or sleet, 13 percent occur on icy pavement, and 16 percent take place on snowy or slushy pavement.

 

Understanding the dangers of freezing temperatures lays the foundation for driving safely in winter. The next step is to prepare yourself and your vehicles.

 

1) Ready Your Vehicle for Cold Weather

According to tips from the U.S. Department of Transportation, driving safely in winter begins before your company vehicles even get on the road. When the temperature drops, pay special attention to batteries, wipers, coolant, and tires. The Chautauqua County Executive’s office and New York State Police—no strangers to wintry conditions—suggest the following checklist:

 

  • Make sure your vehicle has ample antifreeze and plenty of windshield wiper fluid
  • Check windshield wiper blades, headlights, flashing hazard lights, heater and defroster
  • Test the battery to avoid being stranded in the cold with a vehicle that won’t start
  • Make sure all tires have adequate tread

 

2) Ready Yourself and Your Drivers

The operative word for winter driving is SLOW.

 

“People need to keep in mind that the posted speed limit is for optimal driving conditions,” Fran McLaughlin, director of support services for the Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, Sheriff’s Office told USA Today. “If you have wet, icy or snowy roads, we ask that people drive defensively. They need to allow more stopping distance. They need to slow down.”

 

Increase your following distance since sudden braking on slick or snow-covered roads can cause your vehicle to slide and even spin. Remember to stay at least 200 feet behind snowplows.

 

Before heading out, know the weather and traffic conditions in order to plan the safest route. Give yourself more time to get where you’re going.

 

3) Update the Emergency Kit in All Your Vehicles

The Chautauqua County Executive’s office and New York State Police recommend updating the emergency kit across all your vehicles to include the following: a shovel, snow brush, windshield scraper, reflective vest, flashlight, battery powered radio, extra batteries, cell phone charger or battery pack, water, snack food, matches, first aid kit with pocket knife, necessary medications, blankets, tow chain or rope, road salt and sand, booster cables, emergency flares, florescent distress flag, and extra hats, socks, and mittens.

 

Last but not least, weight your vehicle if necessary and don’t lose your sense of humor in the snow, sleet, and blistering wind. As a Facebook post from the Bath Township Police Department in Michigan reminds us, “Putting two logs, a bag of rock salt and a 30 pack of Busch Light in the back of your vehicle for weight purposes probably won’t cut it.”

 

Winter driving can be tricky. Just as vehicle maintenance and regular tune-ups lay the groundwork for safe driving year-round, a seasonal review of this 3-step checklist will ensure that your business is ready to face the winter roads.

 

Read our blog about the Dangers Unique to Winter Driving.

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