Safety Engineers Offer Winter Driving Safety Tips
Des Plaines, IL (December 18, 2008) — As transportation incidents continue to be the number one cause of on-the-job deaths in the U.S., the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is offering driving tips to help motorists navigate safely on our roads, especially during severe weather conditions.
“We urge drivers to be cautious when driving not only for their passengers and themselves, but for fellow travelers and the thousands of workers whose vehicle is their office — such as law enforcement personnel, firefighters, emergency responders, post office workers, truck drivers, utility vehicles and more,” ASSE President Warren K. Brown, CSP, ARM, CSHM, said today. “So far this December we have seen treacherous weather, conditions drivers cannot control. However, if they drive cautiously they are more likely to make it to their destination safely and without incident.”
According to the National Research Council (NRC), in the U. S. 7,000 fatalities, 800,000 injuries and more than 1.5 million vehicular crashes annually are associated with poor weather-related driving conditions. And of the millions of people hurt in roadway crashes annually, hundreds of thousands of people are injured so severely that they will never regain full use of their bodies.
The top causes of fatal roadway crashes are failure to keep in proper lane or running off the road; driving too fast for conditions or in excess of the posted speed limit; driving under the influence; failure to yield the right of way; distractive driving; operating in erratic/reckless manner; and, failure to obey traffic signs, signals.
ASSE suggests these tips to help increase roadway safety during winter weather travel:
• Always wear your seatbelt and properly restrain children in the back seat of a vehicle.
• Be careful when driving on bridges and overpasses. Elevated roadways are the first roadways to freeze in winter conditions such as snow, sleet or ice.
• Reduce speed and increase following distances between vehicles. A vehicle needs three times more space to stop on slick or icy roads. Visibility is also more difficult in winter weather conditions.
• When encountering black ice, reduce speed by easing off the accelerator rather than braking.
• If in a skid, turn the steering into the skid, easing off the accelerator but not breaking suddenly.
• Do not drink and drive. In 2005, 44 percent of the 398 fatal crashes that occurred on Christmas were alcohol related and 50 percent of the 471 fatal crashes that occurred on New Year’s Day were attributed to alcohol.
• If stranded or stalled stay in your vehicle and wait for help. Drivers should carry a cell phone or two-way radio, with a charged battery, in order to call for help and notify authorities of their location. Motorists should also have an emergency kit in their vehicle along with additional warm clothing.
• Be aware of people on foot, bicycles, and motorcycles.
• Use headlights during adverse weather – some state laws mandate this – and use front and rear fog lights in dense fog.
• Maintain a safe distance behind city/state winter vehicles such as those plowing and salting the roads.
• Take corners very slowly and steer gently and steadily, rather than with jerky movements to avoid skidding.
• Do not travel in vehicles if temperatures are extreme and expected to be between 20 and 34 degrees below zero.
Additionally, an employer whose employees may drive in areas that experience cold weather should consider equipping each vehicle with a winter storm kit that includes blankets, a flashlight, cell phone with charger and extra batteries, a shovel, first-aid kit, non-perishable food, extra warm clothes, water container and more. Hypothermia is a potentially dangerous exposure during extremely cold winter months. Employees can suffer from hypothermia when they lose body temperature in cold weather as a result of exposure. Employers and employees should consider taking the following steps to be safe on the road in winter weather:
• Plan ahead and allow plenty of time to travel – businesses should maintain information on employee driving destinations, driving routes and estimated time of arrivals. Be patient while driving in winter conditions as travel time can increase in snow, sleet or ice.
• Make sure vehicles are winterized – before driving, have a mechanic look at the battery, antifreeze, wipers and windshields washer fluid, ignition system, thermostat, lights, flashing hazard lights, exhaust system, heater, brakes, defroster, tire tread and oil level. Carry a windshield scraper for ice and snow removal.
• Check weather conditions before traveling – according to the National Weather Service, a winter storm watch alerts the public of the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, freezing rain or heavy sleet; a winter storm warning is issued when a combination of heavy snow, heavy freezing rain or heavy sleet is expected; and a winter weather advisory is issued when accumulations of snow, freezing rain, freezing drizzle and sleet may cause significant inconvenience and moderately dangerous conditions.
Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the largest and oldest professional safety organization and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Its more than 32,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members lead, manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor, health care and education. For more information please go to www.asse.org.