The East Coast and Midwest are at the front end of an aggressive two weeks in terms of weather. Winter Storm Hercules, the first storm of 2014, crippled the region with up to two feet of snow on the third day of the year, with an arctic blast hot on its tail and another winter storm, Ion, close behind that. From the Midwest to the Northeast, snow, sleet, and bitterly cold temperatures will all be experienced within a matter of days. With these dangerous conditions presenting themselves so early in the year, it is important to be careful if and when you and your fleet drivers are behind the wheel. Remain cognizant of the following winter driving tips and your entire fleet will manage to avoid the snowbanks and other cars this winter!
Ideal Driving Speed for Wintry Weather
Far too many drivers are under the impression that the posted speed limit is what they should be cruising at, no matter the conditions. Unfortunately, it is a stated limit that should not be exceeded and there are three factors that need to be taken into consideration to determine if that speed should be attained; traffic, visibility, and traction.
If there is heavy traffic, then it is important to keep a safe distance from the cars in front of and behind your vehicle. This is important because the winter driving capabilities of the other drivers around you cannot be controlled, so it is always best to maintain safe distances between bumpers.
When visibility is low due to a heavy snow storm, freezing fog, or a wintry mix, it is crucial that you stay below the posted speed limit. With minimal visibility, it is difficult to discern road conditions, road shape, and especially other drivers around your vehicle.
Traction is the third and one of the most important factors to consider when driving. Since patches of white ice, snow, slush and black ice fluctuate as the road progresses, it is imperative to keep your speed slow enough so as to maintain traction at all times.
Avoid Forcing the Tires to do More than one action at a time
In questionable driving conditions, having your vehicle's tires perform more than one duty can spell disaster. Most spinouts and uncontrolled slides occur when a driver attempts to do two actions at once – steer while braking, or turn while accelerating. This is demanding too much of the already limited traction that the tires are given in wintry road conditions; even if they are high-traction winter tires. To overcome this risk, come to a complete stop before turning the wheel around a corner, and apply light, consistent pressure to the throttle when making a turn from a complete stop.
Do Not Panic When Driving on Icy Roads
Many winter driving accidents can be completely avoided if the driver maintains an air of calm, cool, and collected thinking. While it is terrifying to have the realization that you are no longer in control of your vehicle, it is likely that there is more control available than you are lead to believe. Panicking when behind the wheel in icy conditions is the root cause of many accidents. As stated in the previous tip, forcing the tires to find more traction than is available will lead to an inevitable loss of control. Unfortunately, that is the gut reaction of inexperienced winter drivers; slam on the brakes and sharply turn the wheel to avoid the seemingly imminent collision. Those of you whom have been in an icy slide and tried to force the brakes and twist the wheel are aware that you will get literally no response from the tires; this is because too much is being asked of them.
The best solution when first feeling a slide – no matter if there is a car in front of you or if you are in the midst of a turn – is to take your foot of the accelerator and lightly turn into the slide. Turning against the slide will incur a more aggressive slide in the opposite direction. While slamming on the brakes will cause your tail end to slip out even further.
These are important tips that you and your team of fleet drivers need to be aware of for safe driving in icy, winter conditions. Stay safe, stay warm, and Happy New Year!