Thursday, October 27, 2011

Before the Snow Flies, Are Your People Ready for the Road?

By Ross Bentley

Winter is approaching, so let’s get ready... let’s get prepared for some of the trickiest driving we ever face.

Perhaps the most important tip I can give about winter driving is: think ahead - be prepared. How many times have you heard someone complain about hitting a patch of black ice and skidding off the road (or almost off the road; or into another car; etc.) on their way to work in the morning? And yet, most of those drivers had to scrape ice off their windows that morning. If they had to scrape ice off the windows, do you think that might have been a good warning there could be ice on the road?

And even if you park in a garage or underground parking lot, think about the road conditions before they take you by surprise. When ever I pull out of my underground parking in the winter, and there might be even the slightest chance of icy or frosty roads, I check it out. Before even getting on the main roads, I'll brake heavily to see if the car skids easily. I figure it's better to know early, than to wait until the first intersection to find out it's so icy I can't stop.

Being prepared also means having your vehicle prepared. Make sure your visibility is unimpeded. How many times have you seen people driving in the winter with snow stacked up on top of the hood and covering the windows, headlights and taillights? It only takes a couple of minutes to clear the snow off; and be sure to defrost the windows.

Waking up to snow.
It's going to be a long commute.
You should also check the condition of your windshield wipers, and make sure you have lots of windshield washer fluid.

Obviously, it's important to have good winter tires on your vehicle. Before buying winter tires, talk to a knowledgeable tire dealer. They can make sure your tires are the correct size, type and properly inflated. In fact, check your tire pressures more often during the winter, as the temperature changes can affect them significantly.

Many people will tell you to add weight to the rear of your car - putting sand bags or whatever in the trunk. That's not bad advice - sometimes. First of all, it doesn't work with a front-wheel-drive vehicle. I don't know how many times I've talked to people driving front-wheel-drives who have put weight in the trunk. Remember, the reason for this is to add weight - and therefore traction - to the driving wheels. That doesn't work when the driving wheels are in front!

If you do have a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, don't put the weight at the very rear of the trunk. If you do, and the car begins to skid, all that weight hanging way out the back will act just like a pendulum, making it even more difficult to control the skid. Instead, if you add weight, place it as far forward in the trunk as possible - preferably directly over the rear axle.

It's a good idea to keep a blanket, extra clothes and boots in your vehicle, in case you do get stuck. Also keep a candle, matches, flashlight and even food - especially if you're planning a long winter trip. And of course, it's smart to carry a shovel, sand and chains in the trunk.

There's nothing like a snowfall to test those rusty winter driving skills! Whether your employees drive for work or simply to and from, help prepare them to make it safely through the winter before the going gets really tough. Call today to schedule a two-hour onsite Safe Winter Driving seminar covering these critical topics:

• following distance and reaction time
• blind spots and tailgaters
• skidding
• winter travel tips
• emergency stops
• bridge decks and entrance ramps
• how to prepare your car for winter

For more traffic safety resources or to schedule a seminar at your location, contact Tina Bacon at 800-521-0778.

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