OSEA Safety Blog

10 Winter Driving Safety Tips & Reminders from a Road Warrior

Thursday, January 4, 2018 Brenda Griffin

10 Winter Driving Safety Tips and Reminders from a Road Warrior

While most people travel to the same office daily, us road warriors are headed to a new destination daily. We might have a half hour drive across town or a three-hour drive through the Lake Effect snow bans, depending on the day. Either way, like each of you, we’re faced with changing road conditions throughout the winter season. Honestly, my most treacherous moments on the road have happened within 5 miles of my house!

While living on a hill has its advantages, when it comes to winter driving, it adds an element of complexity to even the shortest drives. My biggest lesson and message - respect the hazard.

This hit close to home last winter after I wrapped up a training session in November only to find my car, and everything else, encapsulated in ice. Parked on a slope, my tires were spinning and going nowhere. My car (and all-season tires) had just passed inspection; clearly, my tires were no match for the conditions. It was a white-knuckle drive as I slipped, skidded, and slid my way home, up and down the hills of Syracuse. My Christmas present to my self was a new set of snow tires and having them on the car by Thanksgiving this year was a top priority.

What follows is a list of tips and reminders to arrive at your destination safely this winter, no matter the distance:

  1. Buy snow tires. Whether it’s AAA, the National Safety Council, or OSHA, experts agree that the best tire for snowy road conditions is a solid set of snow tires. Traction is improved as is overall handling. No, they won’t solve all your driving problems, especially when it’s frigidly cold out and the road salt is having zero impact on road conditions, but they will help keep you on the road rather than sliding, skidding, and spinning your wheels like me last year. Be sure to maintain the proper tire pressure.
  2. Keep your distance. This gives you plenty of time to break and come to a stop if the driver ahead of you suddenly stops or skids out of control.
  3. Slow down. Whether accelerating or decelerating, take your time to avoid skids, especially when making corners. Steer into a skid should it happen.
  4. Know your breaks. Pump non-antilock brakes and stomp on antilock brakes (they do the pumping for you!)
  5. Just plan on more time. We all need to factor in clearing our vehicles completely of snow and ice for maximum visibility, in addition to slower travel speeds. It is what it is – factor it into your day. Adjust and/or cancel your travel plans if you can, to avoid harsh weather and conditions.
  6. Pick the best travel route. While I enjoy plenty of short cuts across the NYS country-side, these backroads might not be the safest during the winter months. Stick to roads and highways that are frequently plowed (and traveled). Be extra careful on elevated roadways as they freeze quickly and are often high accident areas.
  7. Dress for it. While we never plan to skid off the road or get stuck in frigid temps, it happens so why not plan for it? Bring your warmest boots, gloves, hats, coats with you and stick to wool or synthetics. Leave the cotton for summer time!
  8. Crack the window. If you do get stuck or caught in traffic, keep fresh air in mind to avoid build-up of carbon monoxide inside the car. Always keep your air exchange settings to circulating outside air into the car rather than circulating air only from within the car. Should you get stuck in a snow bank, make sure your tail pipe is clear of any snow so exhaust doesn’t back up inside your vehicle. Keeping a small shovel in your trunk is always a good idea to help clear away the snow.
  9. Stay with your car. It’s best to call for help when you’re stuck rather than walk to it, so keep your cell phone charged. It’s also wise to keep a blanket in the vehicle to keep you warm as well as other safety gear, including a flashlight, jumper cables or other started kits now available, sand or kitty litter to help with traction, warning devices like flares or reflective triangles. Keeping your gas tank full will help with maintaining heat. The rule of thumb is to turn on the car / heat for 10 minutes an hour to conserve fuel until help arrives.
  10. Be the leader. Not everyone will heed this advice or other safe driving practices so it’s critical to keep your eyes on the road and anticipate problems with other vehicles. Turn off the radio and keep your eyes on the road, scanning the horizon and checking mirrors.

Yes, it’s a given living in the northeast that snow will eventually arrive. Don’t be caught off guard by changing conditions. It’s one thing to “know” how to handle winter driving and another to “do” what needs to be done. Have a safe winter driving season.

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