Winter is here, and with it are serious driving and working dangers. From rain and ice to sleet and snow, driving in the winter requires focus and preparation. Use these member-exclusive resources to stay safe before, during and after every drive this winter.
Get Your Vehicle Ready for Winter Roads
Preparation is key to staying safe on winter roads, where storms can increase risks and leave drivers stranded. Before every drive, ensure you know the route and your vehicle is prepared for the conditions.
Start by checking the weather along your route. Though it may be inconvenient, hold off on driving until a storm passes. If the weather is manageable, OSHA recommends familiarizing yourself with the directions ahead of time, letting others know your route and planned arrival time, and leaving early. Even without a storm on the horizon, feeling rushed can lead to speeding and other risky habits. Talk to your supervisor about these situations, including whether your workplace has a severe weather policy, so you know how to react to an impending storm.
It is also important for your vehicle to be regularly inspected by a trained mechanic. A safety checkup should include the condition of systems such as:
· Hoses and fan belts
· Spark plugs
· Air, fuel and emissions filters, and PCV valve
· Tire wear and air pressure
· Antifreeze level and freeze line
Check with your supervisor or safety manager to understand the maintenance schedule for your vehicle and ensure these systems are functioning correctly. You should also check your vehicle’s emergency kit for the following supplies:
· A properly inflated spare tire, wheel wrench and tripod jack
· Jumper cables
· Snow shovel, snow brush/ice scraper, and cat litter for traction
· Flashlight with extra batteries
· Reflective vest, triangles and brightly colored cloth to make your vehicle more visible
· First aid kit and blankets
· Drinking water and nonperishable, high-energy foods such as unsalted nuts, dried fruits and hard candy
· Cell phone charger
· Windshield washer fluid
Supplies like these will be vital if you become stranded. Learn more about the supplies to keep in your vehicle in case of an emergency.
Once your supplies and vehicle are ready, take a few moments before each drive to warm the vehicle up in an open-air space. This is a great time to clear the windows, lights, external mirrors, roof and sensors of any snow, ice or other debris. Though it is tempting to clear only a small patch of the windshield, this can be incredibly dangerous for you and other drivers. Use your snow brush/ice scraper to clear off the entire vehicle so that you can see in all directions, other drivers and pedestrians can see your lights, and the vehicle’s sensors can properly detect hazards. Learn more about your vehicle’s sensors at MyCarDoesWhat.org.
Stay Safe While Driving in Inclement Weather
When driving on winter roads, keep one thought in mind: take it slow. Sleet, ice and snow can make even short drives dangerous, including on roads you know well. Limit your speed and keep plenty of room between vehicles so you can respond quickly to hazards. Brake earlier than usual in inclement weather, and use the proper lights as needed (fog lights can be helpful when it’s actively snowing). This is particularly important when driving in work zones, where workers may be at higher risk.
Once you arrive at your destination, choose a parking spot free of ice. When you get out of the vehicle, keep an eye out for traffic, and to avoid slipping, OSHA recommends insulated, water-resistant boots with good rubber soles. Even with proper footwear, try to keep your hands free for balance, and stay on treated, flat sidewalks as much as possible. Similar to driving, take it slow while walking in winter conditions so you can respond safely to hazards.
This is also a good time to ensure your vehicle is ready for future winter drives. In cold weather, keep your gas tank at least half-full and regularly check tire pressure, as it tends to drop with the temperature. These simple steps will help you stay safe on winter roads.
Learn the Basics of Cold Weather Safety
Cold weather is more than just an inconvenience. Without the right preparations, it can be dangerous and even deadly. Whether you are stranded on a winter road or simply working outside, take precautions to prevent injury from frostbite and hypothermia.
Frostbite comes from exposure to extremely cold temperatures, and can lead to permanent tissue damage and amputation. It is usually associated with fingers and toes, but also is common on ears, nose, cheeks and chin. According to the CDC, the first sign of frostbite is unusual skin redness. If exposure to cold continues, symptoms can include:
- White or gray-looking skin
- Skin that feels waxy or unusually firm