The holiday season presents a number of challenges for professional drivers, with the influx of additional traffic and colder weather – but New Year’s Eve in NYC may just be the most taxing. This month we are offering some ideas to help make the most of that difficult, but potentially rewarding day. We also offer tips for proper lifting techniques to save you from injury, along with a slew of additional winter-driving tips.

 

New Year’s Eve

  • By being proactive, you will save time and money. Learn, in advance, about street closings, large gatherings and detours through newspapers, the radio, websites and other reliable news sources – and you will be better equipped to navigate the city on New Year’s Eve (NYE), therefore increasing your earning potential.
  • Be patient with passengers who may be intoxicated. It is infinitely better that they chose NOT to drive while intoxicated, even if their behavior can be a little frustrating at times. Better that than risking lives, your own among them.
  • That doesn’t mean you have to put up with over-the-top, threatening behavior. Make sure you are familiar with all area police precincts. Do not take the law into your own hands if you are being abused or threatened by an intoxicated passenger.
  • Wear your seatbelt and recommend that ALL passengers do the same, as large crowds tend to jaywalk on New Year’s Eve, causing sudden stops.
  • Use local streets instead of highways, when possible. It is easier to take defensive driving actions on a street than on a highway, where speeding drunk drivers may be traveling.
  • Be extra-courteous to your passengers. You may be pleasantly surprised by the generous gratuities of appreciative passengers, who know that driving on NYE is no easy task.

 

Safe Lifting Practices

  • During the holiday season, it is likely that you will need to assist customers with packages. Using the proper technique will help prevent injuries and your customers will appreciate the help.
  • Lift close to your body. You will be stronger and more stable if the object is held close to your body rather than at the end of your reach. Make sure you maintain a firm grip on whatever you are lifting and keep it balanced close to your body.
  • Avoid slippery surfaces when preparing to lift a heavy object. Wear shoes with rubber soles to help avoid slipping.
  • A solid base is essential. Your feet should be shoulder width apart. If your feet are too close together you will be unstable, too far apart will hinder movement. Take small steps.
  • Bend your knees, not your back, and squat down if you need to pick up a package off the ground. Keep your spine straight, head up and eyes focused upwards. Practice a proper lifting technique before you lift an object.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles. This will help keep your back in a good lifting position and will reduce excessive force on your spine.
  • Lift with your legs. Your legs are many times stronger than your back muscles, and less prone to injury.
  • If you’re straining, get help. If an object is too heavy, or awkward in shape, make sure you have someone around who can help you lift. Perhaps ask a doorman or bellhop for assistance at hotels.
  • Wear a belt or back support. If you are lifting in your job or even at home, a back-support belt can help you maintain a better lifting posture.
  • Avoid twisting your body when lifting, if possible. Face in the direction you are walking. If you need to turn, stop, turn in small steps, and then continue walking.

 

Driving on Snow and Ice

(Mac Demere, Contributor)

The best tip for winter driving: Sometimes it’s best to stay home or at least remain where you are until snow plows and sanding crews have done their work. If you crash on a snowy or icy road, you’ll certainly be late – or worse. Since you can’t always call out and claim a “snow day,” it’s important to learn how to correctly drive in the snow.

  • Get a grip.To have adequate snow traction, a tire requires at least 6/32-inch deep tread, according to The Tire Rack. (New passenger-car tires usually have 10/32-inch of tread.) Ultrahigh-performance “summer” tires have little or no grip in snow. Even “all-season” tires don’t necessarily have great snow traction… some do, some don’t. If you live where roads are regularly snow covered, use snow (also known as “winter”) tires. They have a “snowflake on the mountain” symbol on the sidewall, meaning they meet the tire-industry standard for snow traction.
  • Make sure you can see.Replace windshield wiper blades. Clean the inside of your windows thoroughly. Apply a water-shedding material (such as Rain-X) to the outside of all windows, including the mirrors. Make sure your windshield washer system works and is full of an anti-icing fluid. Drain older fluid by running the washers until new fluid appears. Switching fluid colors makes this easy.
  • Run the air-conditioner. In order to remove condensation and frost from the interior of windows, engage your air-conditioner and select the fresh air option. It’s fine to set the temperature on hot. Many cars automatically do this when you choose the defrost setting.
  • Use your headlightsso that others will see you and, hopefully, not pull out in front of you. Make sure your headlights and taillights are clear of snow. If you have an older car with sand-pitted headlights, get a new set of lenses. To prevent future pitting, cover the new lens with the type of clear tape used to protect helicopter rotor blades and racecar wings. It’s available from auto-racing supply sites.
  • Give yourself a brake.Learn how to get maximum efficiency from your brakes before an emergency. It’s easy to use antilock brakes: Stomp, stay and steer. Stomp on the pedal as if you were trying to snap it off. Stay hard on the pedal. Steer around the obstacle. (Warning: A little bit of steering goes a very long way in an emergency.) If you drive on icy roads or roads that are covered with snow, modify your ABS technique. After you “stomp” and the ABS begins cycling, you will feel pulses in the pedal or hear the system working. Ease up slightly on the pedal until the pulsing happens only once a second. For vehicles without ABS, you’ll have to rely on the old-fashioned system: You. For non-ABS on a mixed-surface road, push the brake pedal hard until the wheels stop rolling, then immediately release the brake enough to allow the wheels to begin turning again. Repeat this sequence rapidly. This is not the same as “pumping the brake.” Your goal is to have the tires producing maximum grip regardless of whether the surface is snow, ice or damp pavement.
  • Watch out for “black ice.”If the road looks slick, it probably is. This is especially true with black (or glare) ice, one of winter’s worst hazards. This is nearly transparent ice that often looks like a harmless puddle or is overlooked entirely. Test the traction with a smooth brake application or slight turn of the wheel.
  • Remember the tough spots.Race drivers must memorize the nuances of every track, so they can alter their path for changing track conditions. You must remember where icy roads tend to occur. Bridges and intersections are common places. Also, wherever water runs across the road.
  • Too much steering is bad.If a slick section in a turn causes your front tires to lose grip, the common – but incorrect – reaction is to continue turning the steering wheel. That’s like writing checks on an overdrawn account. It won’t improve the situation and may make things worse. If the icy conditions end and the front tires regain grip, your car will dart whichever way the wheels are pointed. That may be into oncoming traffic or a telephone pole. Something very similar happens if you steer too much while braking with ABS. Sadly, there are situations where nothing will prevent a crash, but turning the steering wheel too much never helps.
  • Avoid rear-tire slides.First, choose a car with Electronic Stability Control. Fortunately, ESC became mandatory in 2012 for all cars. Next, make sure your rear tires have at least as much tread as your front tires. If you buy winter tires, get four.
  • Technology offers no miracles.All-Wheel Drive (AWD) and ESC can get you into trouble by offering a false sense of security. AWD can only help a vehicle accelerate or keep moving: It won’t help you go around a snow-covered turn, much less stop at an icy intersection. ESC can prevent a spinout, but it can’t clear ice from the road or give your tires more traction. Don’t let technology fool you into overestimating available traction.

Regardless of your driving skills or vehicle preparation, there are some winter conditions that can’t be conquered – but these tips will at least improve your chances of avoiding accidents.

 

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Article by Bertram Merling

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

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