Preparing for winter weather

Every year at this time we issue the same sort of information.  Don’t get bored or ignore it. Complacency is a killer. By anticipating what you might encounter, you may be able to deal with it more safely.

The number of fatal crashes decreases in winter, but the number of property damage and non-fatal crashes increases. Experienced drivers who maintain situational awareness and actually think about driving will have fewer events than inexperienced or mindless drivers. In addition to thinking about driving while driving, we must prepare to deal with whatever type of weather we’ll encounter.

Vehicle preparation is crucial. Some of us will have trained mechanics check our brakes, windshield wipers, defroster, heater, exhaust systems, batteries, alternators, fluids (antifreeze and windshield washer) and tires. Others may have crew members perform the checks. Have those who are doing the checks been properly trained? Does everybody do it the same way? Are the records of the vehicle checks maintained as business records? Do supervisors monitor and document the performance of personnel doing the vehicle checks?

Do we keep our vehicles clean, paying extra attention to headlights, taillights and turn signals so that we may be readily seen? Do we keep our fuel topped off? If we get stuck, we’d like to stay warm while making sure the exhaust isn’t blocked. If we use chains have they been inspected? What mechanisms are in place to make certain that they are installed properly? Are our vehicles stocked with emergency supplies that match the need dictated by local weather conditions and terrain?

How should we prepare ourselves? If we have a mixed fleet, driving each type of vehicle should be part of the orientation process. Should the first time an employee drives a particular type of vehicle be in inclement weather? When we know that we are going to be exposed to environmental stressors that will negatively impact our driving performance, don’t we have a professional obligation to be in top physical condition, get plenty of rest and not ingest substances that may impair our driving? Over the counter (OTS) preparations may impair driving ability by themselves or interact with prescription medications. Check with your physician if you are unsure. Are we properly attired? Do we have sunglasses to minimize glare? Does our footwear provide adequate warmth, support, water-resistance and traction?

We must stay informed of the road conditions. Slow down, increase following distance, decelerate well in advance of turning or stopping, and avoid braking while turning. When you go down a hill choose your maximum safe speed at the top of the hill and travel at a slower speed as you descend. Use gentle braking throughout. Don’t wait until you are at the bottom of the hill to do all of your braking.

We must protect ourselves from other drivers. Anticipate that they will do the unexpected. Think of the craziest driving behavior in bad weather you’ve observed that put you at risk. How did you avoid the crash? What did you learn from it? Share these near-miss experiences with your co-workers. Learn from each other. It’s safer and easier that way.


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The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, and environments. Please contact us or your attorney if you have any questions.

For safety or risk management questions or suggestions, please contact Markel.

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