Across Canada, almost 30% of car accidents happen on snowy or icy roads and 5% of these happen during an active snowfall. With what is predicted to be a long, cold winter ahead of us, organizations that run a fleet must take extra precautions to keep their operational drivers safe. Particularly when considering that motor vehicle crashes are today’s leading cause of death in the workplace. Here are some practical tips for reducing risk while winter driving:
Prepare yourself for the drive ahead: Know what to expect by checking the weather and conditions before heading out. Environment Canada issues warnings when blizzards, heavy snow, freezing rain or drizzle, cold snaps and winds are expected. Give yourself extra time for travel and if the conditions are bad, tell someone where you are going, the route you plan to take and when you expect to arrive. If driving becomes too risky, turn back or look for a safe place to stop until it is safe to continue driving. Make sure you have enough fuel, and aim to keep the fuel tank at a minimum of half-full. Also, make sure your mobile phone is fully charged.
Get to know your vehicle: Plan to get your battery tested in fall and spring, before winter driving occurs. Make sure that your brakes, lights, heating & cooling, exhaust and ignition systems are all working properly, and ensure that any defects are corrected prior to the winter season. Make sure your tires are inflated to the proper pressure, and check your spare tire pressure regularly. It is most effective to check tire pressure when it is cold outside, because the pressure will decrease in the cold. Conduct daily vehicle inspections before driving.
Check out your wipers: Ensure your wipers are in good condition and replace blades that streak. Fill up on winter washer fluid and carry an extra jug in your vehicle. Pack an ice scraper and brush, and test them to make sure that they work effectively.
Stock up on survival tools: Keeping a safety kit in your vehicle during the winter months can be lifesaving. Consider packing the following items: a First Aid Kit, flashlight, ice scraper and brush, shovel, tripod jack, traction mats, compass, warm clothes and footwear, blanket, cloth or roll of paper towels, bag of salt, road flares, emergency food and water, booster cables, matches, extra washer fluid, fuel line antifreeze, and spare tire.
Make visibility your main priority: Remove all snow from your vehicle’s hood, roof, windows and lights. Clear all windows of frost and fog. If visibility becomes obstructed or poor, find a place to safely pull off the road as soon as you can. If you need to exit the vehicle to scrape or brush your car again, get out from the passenger side, to reduce the risk of being hit by other drivers. Put on your emergency flashers.
Buckle up: Always, always wear your seat belt. Lap belts should be kept low and snug over the hips, while shoulder belts should always be worn across the chest.
Concentrate, concentrate, concentrate: Be alert and well rested behind the wheel. Always stay focused on the driving task and don’t allow yourself to become distracted. Pay close attention to other drivers who may skid or drift without warning. Match your speed to the road and weather conditions, avoid passing when conditions are bad and leave extra space between yourself and other cars.
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