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February 08, 2013
Winter Storm Grips East Coast--Tips for Safe Winter Driving

With a winter storm gripping the East Coast and other storms spreading across the centeral states, it's a good time to do refresher training on winter weather driving. Your workers need to understand the specific hazards of winter weather so they can adjust their driving to those conditions; use the "Why It Matters" points to drive the hazards home. By knowing the hazards—and the precautions to avoid them—your employees can avoid accidents and breakdowns and reach their destination safely despite the weather.

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Why It Matters...
  • In extreme weather, visibility often decreases.
  • Braking distance increases on wet or slippery roads—and moisture on the brake pads can create an additional hazard.
  • Control of the vehicle also becomes a problem on wet or slippery roads, increasing the risk of skidding.
  • The risk of accidents, injuries, and damage to your vehicle increases.
  • The risk of breakdown may also increase under challenging road conditions like extreme cold.
  • Urge your employees to prepare an emergency kit with the following items before they drive in wintery conditions:

    • Emergency flares or triangles
    • Flashlight
    • Tire jack and tools
    • Inflated spare tire
    • First-aid kit
    • Jumper cables
    • Spillproof container of sand, some cat litter, or a couple of old roof shingles to provide needed traction if stuck in snow or ice
    • Ice scraper, snow brush, and small folding shovel
    • Blanket
    • Emergency food and water

    Employees also need to keep their vehicles in good condition. Having a breakdown is bad enough when the weather is good, but you don’t want to break down in the middle of a snowstorm. Encourage employees to perform this safety check on their vehicles before they get behind the wheel.

    • Test brakes.
    • Clean all exterior lights to improve visibility. Also check that all lights are working.
    • Keep windshield wiper blades clean to prevent streaking. Use a paper towel and wiper fluid or a small alcohol pad, such as in the first-aid kit. Replace blades as needed. They’re not effective when they’re worn. Worn blades can dangerously reduce visibility.
    • Make sure windshield washer reserve is full. Also check oil, coolant, brake fluid, and power steering fluid tanks.
    • Make sure to have plenty of gas.
    • Check tire condition and inflation. Worn tires can’t grip the road and may blow out. Replace them. Also, tire pressure falls with temperature. Check tires before driving, and keep them inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended level.

    Advise your employees to follow these seven general rules for driving safely in extreme weather.

    1. Start out earlier and allow extra time when weather conditions are difficult.
    2. Turn on vehicle lights so drivers can see better—and so that other drivers can see them better.
    3. Slow down and match their speed to the weather conditions rather than the posted speed.
    4. Stay alert and watch out for other drivers and dangerous road conditions.
    5. Increase following distance from 2 seconds to at least 4 seconds.
    6. Prepare for stops so they can bring their vehicle to a halt quickly but safely.
    7. Get off the road to a safe place like a rest stop or turnout if weather conditions get so bad that it is unsafe to continue their journey.
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