There is still one month left until the official start of winter. However, this does not exempt risk management professionals from being aware of the modifications they may need to schedule for public entity vehicles.
Confirm your vehicles and drivers are prepared for winter driving with these tips from Joe Garcia, Risk Management Specialist. We hope you will take note of these precautions and include them in your fleet management plan to prepare for winter driving conditions, as necessary.
- Anti-freeze in radiators and windshield washer reservoirs.
- Battery charge, battery cables and fluid level.
- Exhaust system for any leaks.
- Wipers, lights, defrosters and brakes.
- Tires – should be in good condition with ample tire tread and correct tire type; tire pressure should be checked regularly to maintain recommended pressure.
TAKE SAFETY PRECAUTIONS
- Review everything that might affect the safety of your trip (equipment, weather and road conditions, etc.)
- Always have an ice scraper to clear ice off windows.
- Check the tool box in vehicle to ensure it contains proper winter emergency equipment such as clean rags, heat blankets and a way to communicate.
- Make sure the vehicle has ample fuel to get to and from your destination – traveling with a full tank is a good rule.
- Read weather reports prior to travel; adjust route as necessary to avoid severe weather.
- Plan and know the route that will be taken.
- Dress for the weather conditions through which you will be driving; this should include slip resistant shoes.
- Shift driving attitude during winter months as speeds need to be reduced to drive safely.
- Check regularly to be sure winterizing is effective.
REVIEW TIPS FOR WINTER DRIVING
- Keep in mind that traffic will be slowed by slippery roads, so get an earlier start, allowing more time than usual for a given trip.
- Because of the treacherous conditions that can occur on roadways, be prepared for a quick defensive maneuver if something happens up ahead. You must have more room for stopping.
- Be able to see and be seen; clean all the snow and ice off of your windshield, windows, outside mirrors, lights and reflectors. Make sure wiper blades are in good repair and wiper arms are exerting enough pressure on the blades to make a clean sweep.
- If moisture or ice builds up on the inside or outside of your windshield, stop and clean it off.
- Tires with deep treads are essential for cornering and handling on slippery roads.
- Get a feel of the road. Occasionally try your brakes or gently depress your accelerator while driving. When you have determined how slippery the road is, adjust your speed accordingly. Rising temperatures greatly increase the slipperiness of ice and snow.
- Stretch your “following” distance. Knowing that winter surfaces increase stopping distance 3 to 12 times, the smart driver increases his or her normal dry road following distance. Heavy trucks require a longer stopping distance on slippery roads than passenger cars. Do not tailgate.
- Brake before curves. Once you are in the curve it is too late to slow down. All vehicles are particularly sensitive to over-powering, over-steering, and over-braking on curves. Unseen hazards around the bend may require an unexpected action so turn your steering wheel slowly and smoothly, keep a constant speed in the turn and pump your brakes carefully if it’s necessary to slow down or stop.
- Know your brake system. The key to stopping under control on slippery surfaces is to pump the brakes to avoid locking the wheels unless you have an ABS brake system. For vehicles equipped without ABS brakes, a rapid pumping of brakes will provide short intervals of braking and of rolling wheels alternately, which will enable you to maintain steering control while stopping. If the car has an ABS brake system, you should not pump your brakes but instead apply firm pressure as the ABS system will do the pumping for you.
- Use proper lights. Never drive with parking lights instead of headlights in winter’s early dusk and poor visibility. Keep headlights clean; dirty headlights can greatly reduce your own visible distance at night. Dull, cloudy days will also cut down visibility so drive with low-beam headlights on. Drivers are likely to see your lights before they see your vehicle against the gloom.
- When driving on snow and ice, a slow start from a stop is more effective than tromping on the gas.
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