Do's and Don'ts of Winter Driving
Winter driving conditions force all of use to change our way of driving – this applies to hardened veterans as well as newbie rookies suffering from white line fever. The recent spate of bad weather which has hit the North East is not the last we are going to be seeing, but the brutal tally of road deaths and injuries caused by the latest snow and ice storm should ram it home to everyone – driving in winter is dangerous and you need to gear up.
Normally safe roads will quickly become dangerous, and doubly so if it is a road you are already familiar with because drivers tend to take it for granted. Speed is the #1 factor to get to grips with – the faster you drive, the less friction and grip you have with the road surface, especially a wet or icy one, and the harder it is to slow and control your rig to prevent an incident. Fast speed also means you need a faster reaction time – remember thinking and stopping distances all increase exponentially with speed.
Slow down – especially in bad weather.
TIP: the majority of skidding accidents occur at the on- or off-ramps on highways. Always control and reduce your speed at these locations.
Closely related to truck speed is the spacing distance between your rig and every other vehicle. Tailgating is never a good idea, but in bad weather conditions it is an accident waiting to happen (in fact, it is an incident – accidents infer no-one is to blame). In bad weather with water, snow or ice, stopping distances will increase as your brakes and tires have to work that much harder to find the grip to stop the truck. While there is nothing you can do about people following you too closely, there is plenty you can do when following a vehicle in front. Pull back and make sure there is plenty of distance between you and the vehicle in front.
TIP: at least double the normal stopping distance between you and the vehicle in front in bad weather conditions.
Some people might laugh at the idea that an 80,000 truck and trailer is hard to miss, but when the weather closes in, visibility will deteriorate. With modern speeds and poor visibility, it is entirely reasonable for your rig to come up in another road user unawares – quite literally they will not see what's hit them. The best way of dealing with this it to make sure you are seen at all times. That means driving with your headlights and warning lights on.
TIP: some companies require drivers to always drive with headlights on, no matter what the weather conditions or the time of day. It is better to be seen and missed, than not seen and hit.