Now that winter is officially here, it’s important to be extra careful when there is ice on the road. We also list common distractions that drivers need to properly manage to avoid getting in an accident.

Driving on Ice

Driving on ice and snowy roads can be difficult and dangerous. It takes practice, and even if you’re already familiar with it, mistakes and accidents can still happen. Use extra caution on the road during the winter, and always make sure to know your limits. Even people who have driven in the snow their entire lives can get into accidents if they’re not careful – so we urge you to heed the following advice from defensivedriving.org.

  • Know (and Don’t Push) Your Comfort Levels. When driving in winter weather, no one knows better than you what you are and aren’t comfortable with. It is always best to exercise caution. If it’s too treacherous out there, avoid driving. If you do venture out, drive more slowly than normal. Some people may get impatient, but safety should be your #1 priority.
  • Always Remove ALL Snow From Your Car. Many people make the mistake of leaving ice and snow on their cars before they set out. They may clear off their windshield and windows but often stop there. The problem is, snow on the top of your vehicle can be just as dangerous, both for you and the people around you. If you come to a sudden stop, some of that snow can slip down onto your windshield, blocking your view. It can also slip off the back of your car an onto the car behind you, potentially blocking their visibility. Chunks of ice can also damage their car.
  • Invest in Snow Gear. Snow tires can be well worth the investment if we have a snowy season. Some tires have studs, while others have different treads that allow them to navigate snow with more security and traction. While you still need to be careful, it will be easier to drive with these tires than with standard all-season tires. Most auto shops will install them for you and take them off when the snowy season is behind you.
  • Brake Slowly. You will, at some point, experience some skidding when you’re driving on ice or packed snow. This happens to everyone. Do your best not to panic. If your car is not equipped with ant-lock (ABS), anxiously slamming on your brakes can cause you to spin out.. Instead, gently pump the breaks so your car comes to a slow and deliberate stop. If your vehicle is equipped with ABS, don’t pump the brakes, the technology does it for you. Just firmly press your foot on the brake and maintain steady pressure. You’ll feel the brake pedal pulsate and the ABS light will flash on the instrument panel.
  • Watch for Black Ice. Black ice is a thin layer of nearly transparent ice that blends into the road, making it difficult to spot. While thin, it’s still slippery and dangerous. It forms when the temperature during the day is warm enough to melt ice (or it rains), but the road stays wet. When the weather dips below freezing again, that water freezes and creates a slippery layer on the road. If you hit black ice, do everything that you can to maintain control of the vehicle. Don’t brake unless you have to. Instead, let your car come to a stop by taking your foot off of the accelerator.
  • Give a Lot of Space. Always give the cars ahead of you space in all weather conditions, but allow extra room when snow is on the road. Make sure you give yourself room to brake. If you’re too close to the car ahead of you, it won’t be possible to brake in time. Assume you might skid, even if you know you’re a competent driver.
  • Avoid Dangerous Routes. Some routes are simply less ideal than others when weather conditions are bad. Try to remember notoriously bad spots and avoid them when you’re able. Always plan your route ahead of time. Avoid steep hills and winding roads, when possible, as well as areas you know ice often forms.
  • Give Yourself Extra Time. Make sure you give yourself extra time for every trip when snow and/or ice are on the road. You do not want to be rushing. You will be much more likely to get in an accident.
  • If you’re able to, try to practice driving in a safe place, even if you’ve been driving for many years. Driving on snow and ice can be especially tricky if you are driving a car that you’re not used to. Empty parking lots are great for this. You can learn how much distance you need for your car to stop and it will help you better gauge the amount of control you have.

Driver Distraction is the Biggest Factor in Traffic Accidents

The moment you enter your vehicle, it’s important to start managing distractions. This will improve your level of concentration, increase productivity and help you and your passengers remain safe.

  • Distractions inside your vehicle can include dispatch calls, cell phones, GPS, the radio, DVD players, passengers, newspapers, coffee, cigarettes and food.
  • Distractions outside your vehicle can include other vehicles/drivers, pedestrians, messengers/delivery people, traffic, road conditions, construction, weather conditions, sun glare, and people soliciting at traffic signals and stop signs.
  • Distractions are part of every normal work shift, but cell phones have become the most common cause of motor vehicle accidents in the world. Remember: Laws pertaining to their use are much more restrictive for FHV drivers than the general population. If you must use a cell phone, please pull off the road and into a safe area. Ask frequent callers to call you after your shift. Explain that your concentration is essential to the safety of you and your passengers.

Sources: defensivedriving.org, Hereford Insurance

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Article by Bertram Merling

Bertram Merling is the Loss Control Coordinator for the Hereford Insurance Company.

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