On average, there are more than 5,891,000 vehicle crashes each year; roughly 21% of those crashes—about 1,235,000—are weather-related, and of those, over a half-million occur during conditions of ice, snow and/or slush, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
While there is no sure way to completely remove the danger out of driving on snow- and ice-covered roads, there are precautions drivers can take to reduce the threat of crash, injury or worse.
Protecting yourself begins outside of the truck. Here are some measures you can take to help you stay safe well before you set out on the road:
- Dress warm (dressing in layers is always a good idea)
- Always use three-point contact rule when entering or exiting the cab
- This means both feet should be planted firmly on the steps with one hand grabbing a solid object, such as the steering wheel or the grab-handle; or both hands on the grab-handle(s) or steering wheel and one foot on the step as you enter or exit the truck.
- Cover exposed skins in sub-zero temperatures Wear mittens instead of gloves when possible
- Wear proper socks and boots (waterproof, good traction)
- Take frequent breaks in warm, dry areas
- Drink warm, sweet beverages absent of caffeine or alcohol
- Get plenty of rest
- Make sure your winter emergency kit is stocked and ready
On winter-impacted roads, drivers should:
- Reduce speed
- Increase following distance (at least three times normal follow distance)
- Check the condition of your equipment more frequently (steering, brakes, battery, no-freeze fluid, washer reservoir, etc.)
- Brake gently to avoid skidding
- Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists
- When approaching uphill grades or hills, keep your momentum and choose the proper gear (low gears) to keep traction—avoid coming to a complete stop if possible!
- For descending grades or hills, choose the proper gear and test the condition of the roadway by gently applying the brakes; always be planning ahead to allow a safe stopping distance
- Stay alert, paying extra attention to road conditions, the overall environment and other drivers
- Stop your vehicle in a safe place if you feel you can no longer drive safely
- Do not use cruise control on snowy, icy roadways
- Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roadways, which will freeze first
- Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roads like bridges
Watch our webinar-on-demand on safe winter driving for more best practices!
These tips may seem obvious, but they only work if they’re followed carefully. Ultimately, professional drivers need to exercise their own judgement when determining the safest course of action for navigating roadways impacted by winter weather.