Winter Driving Safety
Winter driving safety is relevant to every single employee—whether or not they drive regularly during the course of their work. While particular attention should be paid to bus drivers, maintenance staff and staff in other roles that involve regular use of a motor vehicle, we strongly recommend also providing winter driving resources and education to all staff so that they can stay safe and continue to serve your mission.
This guidance should include:
Winter Driver Training & Awareness Raising
All staff should receive general training on how to drive in winter weather—including guidance on when and if to stay off the roads. Organizations will also need to develop an inclement weather policy which defines when programming will be cancelled and/or facilities closed, as well as what process is used to notify staff of these changes. Additionally, any staff driving as part of their regular duties will need specific training on winter weather driving that is specific to the types of vehicles they operate.
Preparation and Maintenance
It’s important to make sure that systems are in place to have trained staff inspect all fleet vehicles. The following steps are critically important in ensuring that your organizational fleet—and any vehicles your staff use—are ready for winter conditions:
- Before you operate the vehicle, clean the road film from your headlights and directional signals to be sure the lights can amplify your vision.
- Brakes should provide even and balanced braking and brake fluid levels should remain topped up.
- Evaluate tires for appropriate type (e.g., rain and/or snow) and condition. Ensure that tires are equipped with the traction devices recommended for your region/vehicle type (e.g. chains, studded tires, etc.), if applicable.
- Check the ignition system and make sure that the battery is fully charged and connections are clean. Check the alternator belt is in good condition, with proper tension.
- Flush the radiator, and make sure that it is protected with an anti-freeze solution that is sufficient for the reduced temperatures in your area.
- Inspect all engine systems.
- Check exhaust for leaks and ensure all clamps and hangers are snug.
- Check the oil level, and change the oil and oil filter if needed.
- Keep reservoir levels full. Windshield washer fluid (with anti-freeze protection for colder temperatures) is much more critical during adverse weather.
- Replace windshield wiper blades before the season begins. Each time the vehicle is refueled, make it a habit to clean and remove grime from windshield wipers, and to check for any “dead” rubber.
- Check the defroster to be sure that it is in working order.
- Wear sunglasses, which are often more important in the winter than in the summer, because of the position of the winter sun. Use sunglasses in conjunction with properly adjusted sun visors to reduce glare.
- Equip all vehicles with an ice scraper and/or snow-brush.
- In areas of significantly reduced temperatures, be certain that adequate emergency blankets are available in all vehicles, for all potential passengers, (e.g. the Mylar space blanket or similar).
- Equip all vehicles with a bag of sand or a salt to help with traction.
- All vehicles should be outfitted with emergency kits that include:
- Two-way radio (if cell phones are not available/permitted)
- Windshield ice scraper
- Extra windshield wiper fluid
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Tow chain
- Traction aids
- Emergency flares
- Jumper cables
- Snacks and water
- Change of warm clothes
- Snow brush
- Tires have less grip on wet road surfaces, which increases the time it takes to stop. Increase stopping distances in adverse weather conditions to prevent sliding and skidding. Depending on the weather condition and type of road surface, the need to increase your stopping distance can be any where from three (3) to twelve (12) times the normal distance.
- Be on the lookout for icy bridges and overpasses, (which usually freeze before the highway freezes) as well as standing water.
- Winter weather can reduce visibility which makes it more difficult to spot hazards. Scan the road for unexpected hazards, including stopped vehicles or other drivers behaving erratically.