Over 155,000 vehicle crashes occur annually in the U.S. due to icy roads, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
Even though commercial drivers have a depth of experience behind the wheel, it never hurts to remind your fleet drivers of smart actions to take to prepare their vehicle and stay safe when driving in wintry conditions.
Recently, experts from Volkswagen recommended the following tips you can share with your team.
Prepare Your Vehicle
Before you hit the road, clear snow and ice from all windows, not just the windshield. Remove any snow that is obscuring the side mirrors, headlights, and license plates. Get snow off the roof of the vehicle, too. This snow could hinder drivers traveling behind you or fall forward — covering your windshield and blocking your own view.
Use high-quality winter tires in snowy conditions. Winter tires are designed to have better performance on snow than all-season tires. Tire pressures may drop with the temperature, so drivers need to routinely check and set the tire pressures to the recommended levels for their vehicle.
Use washer fluids formulated to perform well at lower temperatures. You can also operate your vehicle’s heater and A/C at the same time to aid in the removal of moisture from the air inside the cabin. This helps reduce the amount of steam that could build up on the windshield and reduce visibility.
Be sure to check that your engine coolant and antifreeze mixture is at the recommended level and keep an eye on battery life. The car battery can be strained under a particularly heavy load in low temperatures and short trips may not allow enough time for the vehicle’s alternator system to recover the lost charge.
Drive Smart and Safely
Driving on snowy roads can take your car 10 times longer to stop completely, according to AAA. So slow down, drive with caution and if you skid, never slam on the brakes as that can make you lose control of the vehicle. Rather, steer into the direction of the skid if the vehicle is over-steering and the rear wheels are sliding to the outside of the turn.
Experts also recommend refraining from using cruise control systems and increasing the distance between your vehicle and the car in front of you, as stopping distances increase in wintery conditions. Operate the vehicle with smooth and controlled actions and avoid quick acceleration, aggressive steering, and sudden braking.
As always, avoid all distraction and stay focused on the road. Stow your cell phone, don't eat or drink behind the wheel, and pull over if you need to program the navigation system.
Each year, an average of 1,836 deaths and 136,309 injuries are attributed to conditions on icy and snowy roads, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.