It’s that time of year. Winter weather conditions can sneak up on even the best driver, and all it takes is one moment of complacency to make a costly mistake. Don’t let the changing seasons catch you off guard, as they do with much of the general motoring public.
Winter demands heightened awareness and driving skills; and the ice, snow, wind and cold test each driver’s professionalism. This winter, keep in mind these defensive driving tips taken from Schneider’s 68-page Winter Survival Guide for drivers:
Visibility – Watch for brake lights on the vehicles ahead of you.
- Make sure your lights are on and working.
- Clean the ice and snow off mirrors, windows, lights and reflective tape.
- Use your air conditioner to help keep windows defrosted. Conditioned air is dry air.
- Watch the cloud of powdered snow surrounding your unit. There may be a car hidden in it.
- Look out for other vehicles whose only means of visibility is a 3”x3” area scraped off the windshield.
- See and be seen. Be aware of your surroundings. Look ahead, to the sides and rear.
Roadway – Watch for glazed conditions and slow down for the following:
- Be extra cautious on entrance and exit ramps. A sharp turn on a slippery road means double trouble.
- Be aware of bridges. Their surfaces freeze first and can be more slippery than the roadway itself.
- Intersections can be very icy, so start braking early for stop signs and red lights.
- Allow for the wind. Be ready for it in large open areas or when you come out from behind a hill, tunnel or an overpass. Be especially cautious with an empty trailer.
- Don’t “fall” for roads that are rain covered. Keep your speed down to maintain traction and stay off cruise control. If your wipers are on, the cruise should be off. Increase your following distance to be able to react to other vehicles getting into trouble ahead of you.
Traffic – The general driving public is not ready for winter storms. Be especially careful when you are in an area that is being hit with its first storm of the season.
- Keep in mind the importance of a good following distance (7-14 seconds) or more and your ability to recognize what the other driver might do.
Traction – Starting, stopping and steering all require traction.
- Don’t drive in the ruts of other vehicles. Their spinning wheels have probably packed the snow into ice.
- Accelerate/decelerate carefully and gradually. Remember that the tractor must pull the trailer. If the pavement is slick, the conditions are ripe for a jackknife.
- Slow down. Speed decreases traction. Slowing will increase your traction.
- Turn the engine brake off when on wet, icy or snow covered roads, when approaching bridges, on-ramps or exit ramps.
Defensive driving involves the ability of the professional driver to operate the vehicle without being involved in a preventable accident. Sometimes this means letting the driver who is in the wrong have the right-of-way.
Remember: You are the captain of your ship, and you make all the decisions. We expect our Schneider truck drivers to make the safe decision of when to shut down for winter weather, and then communicate that decision appropriately.
What tips or advice do you have for driving safely in winter weather conditions?