ASSE Offers Safety Tips for Winter Driving

In the U.S. each year, approximately 7,000 roadway deaths and 450,000 injuries are associated with poor weather-related driving conditions.

As transportation incidents continue to be the number one cause of on-the-job deaths in the U.S., the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is offering driving tips to help motorists navigate safely on roads, especially during severe weather conditions.

“During inclement weather we are urging drivers to be even more cautious when driving, not only for their passengers and themselves, but for fellow travelers and the thousands of workers whose vehicles are their office — such as law enforcement personnel, snow removal and salt trucks, firefighters, emergency responders, truck drivers, utility workers, and more,” ASSE President Darryl C. Hill, Ph.D., CSP, said. “Treacherous weather and the conditions it brings cannot be controlled by motorists. However, if motorists drive cautiously they are more likely to make it to their destination safely and without incident.”

According to the National Academy of Sciences, adverse weather conditions reduce roadway safety, capacity and efficiency, and are often the catalyst for triggering congestion. In the U.S. each year, approximately 7,000 roadway deaths and 450,000 injuries are associated with poor weather-related driving conditions. It is reported that weather plays a role in approximately 28 percent of all crashes and accounts for 19 percent of all roadway fatalities. In addition to the intangible toll these crashes cause, the economic toll of weather-related deaths, injuries and delays is estimated at $42 billion per year.

Some of the leading causes of fatal roadway crashes are failure to keep in the proper lane or running off the road; driving too fast for conditions or in excess of the posted speed limit; driving under the influence; failure to yield the right of way; distracted driving; operating in an erratic/reckless manner; and, failure to obey traffic signs, signals. ASSE suggests these tips to help increase roadway safety during winter weather travel:

  • Knowledge: Before leaving home, find out about the driving conditions.
  • Clear: Remove any snow on your vehicle’s windows, lights, brake lights, roof and signals. Make sure you can see and be seen.
  • Inspect: Check your vehicle’s tires, wiper blades, fluids, lights, belts and hoses. A breakdown is bad on a good day and dangerous on a bad-weather day.
  • Time: Leave plenty of time to reach your destination safely.
  • Seatbelts/Caution: Always wear your seatbelt and properly restrain children in the back seat of a vehicle. Slow down and proceed with caution.
  • Don’t be Distracted While Driving: Many states, including Washington, D.C., prohibit texting while driving for all drivers. Distracted driving is deadly even in good weather.
  • Don’t Speed: The faster you’re going, the longer it will take to stop. When accelerating on snow or ice, take it slow to avoid slipping or sliding.
  • Distance: Give yourself space. It takes extra time and extra distance to bring your car to a stop on slick and snowy roads. Leave extra room between you and the vehicle in front of you.
  • Brake: Brake early, brake slowly, brake correctly and never slam on the brakes. If you have anti-lock brakes, press the pedal down firmly and hold it. If you don’t have anti-lock brakes, gently pump the pedal. Either way, give yourself plenty of room to stop.
  • Black Ice: Roads that seem dry may actually be slippery – and dangerous. Take it slow when approaching intersections, off-ramps, bridges or shady areas – all are hot spots for black ice.
  • Four-Wheel Drive: It is suggested that when driving on snow and ice, go slowly, no matter what type of vehicle you drive. Even if you have an SUV with four-wheel drive you may not be able to stop any faster, or maintain control any better, once you lose traction.
  • Skid: If in a skid, turn the steering into the skid, easing off the accelerator but not breaking suddenly.
  • If stranded or stalled stay in your vehicle and wait for help. Drivers should carry a cell phone or two-way radio, with a charged battery, in order to call for help and notify authorities of their location. Motorists should also have an emergency kit in their vehicle along with additional warm clothing.

Additionally, an employer whose employees drive in areas that experience cold and inclement weather should consider equipping each vehicle with a winter storm kit that includes blankets, a flashlight, cell phone with charger and extra batteries, a shovel, first-aid kit, non-perishable food, extra warm clothes, water container and more. Hypothermia is a potentially dangerous exposure during extremely cold winter months. Employees can suffer from hypothermia when they lose body temperature in cold weather as a result of exposure.

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