Winter driving preparation and techniques
Image: Highways Agency, 2009
Winter weather has already arrived in most parts of the country, but some parts have been lucky enough to avoid the inevitable season change. Winter weather brings new dangers and the need for greater awareness among motorists. The best way for motorists to deal with winter weather is to not only be prepared for it, but also to know what to do in the midst of it.
For company fleets, being ready and prepared for winter driving conditions is an absolute must for both safety and liability reasons. With an entire vehicle fleet and multiple drivers to look after, fleet managers must ensure that each vehicle is ready and prepared to operate in winter weather. Drivers must also know how to handle their vehicles under a variety of road conditions throughout the winter months.
Winter Road Conditions
Winter brings on a unique set of road conditions that make it particularly dangerous to operate vehicles. During particularly severe weather, fleet drivers may end up facing many of the following winter road conditions:
• Snow – Depending on the outside temperature and other factors, snow can be wet and slushy, soft and flaky or hard-packed and slippery. Drivers must contend with rapidly changing conditions due to melting and accumulation. Snow can also build up within a vehicle's wheel wells, making it harder to steer.
• Ice – A thin layer of frozen water can spell disaster for motorists. Ice usually forms along shaded areas, bridges and overpasses. "Black ice" or ice patches not readily visible to the human eye are major causes of winter weather crashes.
• Visibility – Driving snow can wreak havoc on visibility. It's why drivers should always keep their headlights on during times of poor visibility. Snow and slush from large trucks and buses can also blow snow and moisture onto windshields.
Preparing for Winter Weather
Each fleet vehicle should have a maintenance check-up performed prior to the advent of winter weather. This involves checking the condition of the battery, belts, hoses, brakes, exhaust and ignition system while checking and topping off all fluids. All vehicles should have sufficient amounts of antifreeze and windshield washer fluid with a de-icing agent. Each vehicle should also have its tires checked and, when necessary, be fitted with winter tread.
Every driver should have a winter survival kit in their vehicle. In many cases, having a good kit on hand can mean the difference between life and death. Most kits include:
• Tow rope or chain
• Road flares or warning lights
• Non-perishable energy foods
• Extra clothing and footwear
• Fire extinguisher
• First aid kit
• Gas line antifreeze and water remover
Essential Winter Driving Techniques
Knowing how to drive in winter weather is also important, since vehicles behave differently on ice and snow-covered roads. The following tips can help drivers avoid dangerous accidents caused by winter weather conditions:
• Maintain a safe distance from traffic by observing the "two-second" rule.
• Drive slowly and steer/brake in a smooth and gentle manner to avoid a skid.
• Maintain a safe distance away from snowplows and other road maintenance vehicles.
What to do in a Skid?
A skid occurs when the wheels lose traction on slippery surfaces and slide out of control. Excessive speeds, sudden or hard braking, accelerating too quickly or going around a curve too quickly can cause your vehicle to skid. Knowing how to regain control of your vehicle in a skid is an invaluable skill that can prevent accidents and save lives.
If you find yourself in a skid, steer in the direction of the skid. Look where you want your vehicle headed and steer toward that area. Shift to neutral or step on the clutch pedal if you're skidding in a straight line on ice.
Safety should be first and foremost on all drivers' minds during the winter months. The above tips apply just as much to СlassicСar.com and other vehicles as they do to vehicle fleets.