Winter Driving Tips




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Winter Driving Tips

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bulletATTITUDE:  Attitude is the single most important factor in safe driving. Foremost, a good attitude means avoiding unnecessary risks by putting safety first and focusing your attention on your driving. Drivers with a good attitude have fewer accidents, regardless of their driving skills, because they do not place themselves in high risk situations.
bulletSKILL:  Basic skills are required for all driving. Winter driving requires additional skills such as skid control and being smooth and gentle when turning, braking, and accelerating. However, the best drivers are not always highly skilled or expert at handling emergency situations, but they always have a good attitude.
bulletCHECK THE WEATHER AND STAY HOME:  When the weather or road conditions are poor or bad weather is predicted, postpone your trip until the situation improves. You can call the Highway Patrol for a road condition report: Idaho (208) 336-6600, Montana (800) 332-6171 or (406) 444-6339.
bulletITINERARY:  Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to arrive.
bulletTIME:  Avoid being rushed. Give yourself ample time to prepare the vehicle and get to your destination.
bulletVEHICLE PREPARATION:  For safe winter travel the vehicle must be in good mechanical condition, have clean motor oil of the proper viscosity (check your owner's manual), a cooling system with 50 to 100% antifreeze, and properly inflated tires with at least 50% tread. Drivers of assigned vehicles are responsible for monthly preventive maintenance safety checks and ensuring maintenance and annual inspections are done. Fleet management normally assumes the responsibility for preventive maintenance and periodic safety inspections of pool vehicles. However, all drivers are required to do a short pretrip safety inspection. Turn on the headlights and emergency flasher and walk around the vehicle. Make sure all the lights work and are clean. Visually check the tires, check for body damage, and ensure all cargo is secure. Under the hood, check fluid levels, belts, and scan for leaks. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher, first aid and body fluids barrier kits (usually inside the larger first aid kits), tire chains, a credit card, decent wiper blades, windshield washer antifreeze, and an ice scraper. Travelers need to be prepared with warm clothes, and possibly a blanket in case they become stranded. Adjust the mirrors, and familiarize yourself with the controls. With the engine running, apply hard constant pressure to the brake pedal for 5 seconds. The pedal should stop about half way to the floor and not settle. Set the emergency brake and gently try to move the vehicle. While driving, monitor the performance of the vehicle.
bulletVISIBILITY:  Make sure you can see and can be seen. Make sure all windows, mirrors, and lights are free of frost and working. Headlights must be on when visibility is limited or when traveling Forest Service roads, and they can be useful when traveling on some of our busy 2 lane roads. Windows of vehicles that have been parked outside overnight often frost up again when the vehicle is moved.
bulletLOOK AHEAD & DRIVE DEFENSIVELY: Watch out for other drivers and compensate for their mistakes. They may have never driven on snow before or may not have adjusted their driving for winter. Regardless of the conditions, scan up to 15 seconds or more ahead of your vehicle. Look both ways before going through intersections - even when you have the right of way. The sooner you recognize a hazard, the more time you will have to slow down and deal with it.
bulletSLOW DOWN & INCREASE YOUR FOLLOWING DISTANCE:  Adjust your speed for road conditions and visibility. With less than ideal conditions you must drive, corner, decelerate, and accelerate more slowly. Increase your following distance as road conditions and visibility get worse. For example, with compact snow and ice your following distance should be 8 to 10 seconds.
bulletHANDLING CHARACTERISTICS:  As long as you do not try to turn or brake, the tires that usually lose traction first on slick winter roads are the driven tires, the tires connected to the engine by the drive train. This is due to the torque exerted by the engine when accelerating or decelerating. A decelerating car that has lost traction to its driven wheels will usually pivot around the tires that still have traction, the tires that are not driven. The following deals only with skids that occur when decelerating with very poor traction such as compact snow and ice.
bulletFRONT WHEEL DRIVE:   Even though front wheel drive vehicles usually have more weight on the front than the rear tires, the front tires can lose traction first when traction is poor. Because you have little or no directional control when the front tires lose traction, a skidding front wheel drive vehicle can be unpredictable and difficult to control. Most of the time it will plow forward in a straight line, but sometimes the front of the car will move left or right and pivot around the rear wheels.  Simply put, the car will try to go where it is pointing.
bulletFOUR WHEEL DRIVE:  Four wheel drive is the least likely vehicle to skid, because the engine's torque is divided among four wheels INSTEAD of two. The disadvantage to four wheel drive is that once a four wheel drive vehicle does skid, it is the most unpredictable and DIFFICULT to control, because all four tires usually lose traction.
bulletREAR WHEEL DRIVE:  The rear tires usually lose traction first on a rear wheel drive vehicle. Since you steer with the front tires and they are more likely to retain traction on a rear wheel drive vehicle than with the other types, a rear wheel drive vehicle is often the easiest to control during a skid. As long as the skid is not too severe and the driver keeps the front tires pointing the direction of travel, a skidding rear wheel drive vehicle will tend to pivot around the front tires and skid in a straight line.
bulletSKID RECOVERY:  Basic skid recovery procedures for all vehicle types are: 1. Never panic or give up. 2. Turn the steering wheel the direction you want the front of the car to go. 3. Do not brake or accelerate.
bulletTURNING:  Slow down prior to turning and do not accelerate until you have trade the turn. When turning use just enough-brake application to control your speed when going downhill or just enough throttle to maintain your speed going uphill. Not trying to turn and decelerate or turn and accelerate wilt provide maximum available traction and minimize the possibility of a skid.
bulletLONG AND LOW: The longer and lower the vehicle, the safer and easier it will be to control on a slick road. Vehicles with a high center of gravity are more likely to tip over if traction improves or they hit a rut when skidding. The shorter the wheel base, the distance between the front and rear tires, the more severe the skid and the more difficult it will be to recover froth a skid.
bulletCRUISE CONTROL:  Do not use cruise control when the roads might be slick. Cruise control can apply power suddenly or at the wrong time and cause a skid or make a small skid uncontrollable. If you have the cruise control on and realize the road might be slick, use the hand operated controls to turn it off. Tapping the brakes can initiate a skid if the roads are slick.
bulletSTRANDED:  Do not panic. Remember, because you have informed someone of your itinerary, they will come looking for you. If stranded, stay with the vehicle. Tie a handkerchief or flagging to your antenna and turn on your emergency flashers. Keep a downwind window partially open when running the engine for warmth and make sure the tail pipe remains clear.

These tips are not all inclusive. Supervisors should have short tailgate safety sessions with their folks concerning winter driving. Be careful out there and have a safe winter driving season.







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Last modified: October 15, 2016.