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Not All Environmental Due Diligence is Equal
Safe Winter Driving

Marketing Department

Driving safely in any condition can present its challenges as accidents can and do occur on a daily basis across all spectrums of weather.  However, driving in winter presents a unique set of challenges not typically faced throughout the rest of year during our daily commutes; especially in Northern regions where most of us at AME live and work.  Winter weather brings with it unsafe and often times treacherous conditions for road travel which could trigger state or county-wide emergencies.

Driving in the winter does not have to be a scary task.  There are many things we can do to ensure a safe commute in the winter.  Perhaps the single most important thing you can do prior to driving in the winter is Prepare.  Preparing for a commute in winter can help make a trip safer or at the very least, help you deal with a potential road-side emergency.

Here are some helpful tips for preparing for winter driving:

  • Always make sure your vehicle is in peak operating condition.  The easiest way to ensure this is to have a professional inspect it.  You can have it inspected by any local service provider for a fee.  At a minimum you should request they inspect the battery, tire tread, windshield wipers, headlights, tail lights and turn signals as well as engine coolant.  If any defects are noted, consider replacing the defective equipment. 
  • If you are a do it yourselfer and don’t want to spend money on a service provider and are familiar with automobiles, you can conduct the same inspection yourself.  Any auto part store will check a battery for free.  At a minimum, a battery’s cold cranking amps should fall within the manufacturer’s specs.  Look for cracks or tears in wiper blades and replace as necessary or ask an auto part store employee to help.  They will typically install wiper blades for free.  Walk around your car to ensure your lights and turn signals are working properly.  You may need a friend to help with checking brake lights.  Most new cars have fairly simple steps to change non-functioning light bulbs; oftentimes instructions can be found in the manufacturer’s manual that comes with your car.  If you decide to inspect your vehicle’s coolant level and it requires removing the radiator cap, ensure the vehicle has not been operated for a minimum of 4-5 hours to allow for the vehicle to cool and depressurize after operation.  A safe rule of thumb is to let the vehicle sit overnight.  When opening the radiator cap, look away from it and turn it slightly to see if you can hear a hissing sound that would indicate pressure being relieved from the system.  If you do not hear a hissing sound it is safe to remove the cap.  Once open the coolant level should be visible at the top of the radiator.  If it is not, add coolant to fill it up.  Here in the Indianapolis Office, we’ve recently added a pre-operational checklist to each field vehicle.  The checklist includes easy to inspect items that are important for safe daily use and includes several of the aforementioned inspection items.  Inspecting your vehicle can go a long way to ensure safe operation.
  • Keep at least half a tank of gasoline in your vehicle at all times.  As a fuel tank empties during vehicle operation, condensation builds up in fuel lines and can freeze in cold temperatures causing your vehicle not to start.
  • Prepare an emergency kit.  Your emergency kit should have extra clothes, gloves, hats, food, water, cell phone with emergency numbers preprogrammed, jumper cables, blankets, bright reflective flagging, portable snow shovel, snow brush and scraper and warning devices such as flares.  Having a good emergency kit will ensure you have some basic essentials in the event you are stranded in severe weather.
  • Prior to leaving the home or office, watch weather reports; especially prior to driving in isolated areas such as county roads etc. Delay trips when especially bad weather is expected.  Let your supervisor know and let your client know.  Snow bands can be isolated to certain areas.  If you must leave, let others know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.

Helpful tips for driving in the snow:

  • First and foremost allow yourself plenty of time to reach your destination.  Too often people assume they can leave for work or an appointment at the same exact time as always but this isn’t the case in the winter.  Rushing to make an appointment in treacherous conditions is foolhardy and when accidents occur.  Slow down and arrive safely.  If you are already late, then accept that you are late.  It really doesn’t matter if you are 5 minutes late or an hour late.  Late is late and nothing will change that.  Make the necessary phone call to inform your supervisor or your client that you are running behind due to weather and you will get there as soon as possible, but slow down and arrive safely.  They will understand.
  • Keep your eyes open for road hazards or pedestrians crossing the road.  This is especially important in populated areas such as neighborhoods or around schools.  Many school age children walk to school so be aware of your surroundings.
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry. And take time to slow down for a stoplight or stop sign. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.  This is especially important when operating field trucks.  Trucks are not the best vehicle for driving in the snow.  They are extremely light in the bed and are real wheel drive.  If you must operate a field truck in extremely snowy conditions, throw some sand bags in the back.  This can help improve traction and the sand can be used to help get you out of being stuck.
  • The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
  • Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down-hill as slowly as possible.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.
  • Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Don’t tempt fate: If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.  August Mack has a written policy regarding inclement weather.  If you would like to read the policy it can be found on page 36 of the employee handbook located on the intranet.

If you get stranded in the snow:

  • If you get stuck or become snow-bound, stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Never try to walk in a severe snow storm. It’s easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.  If possible, put bright markers or flagging on your antenna or windows.  This can signal distress.  If it is dark, keep the dome light on if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.  Don’t over exert yourself if you try to push or dig your vehicle out of the snow.
  • If possible, ensure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running and don’t idle for a long time with the windows up or in an enclosed space.  If possible only run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill and to conserve gasoline.
  • If necessary, use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps but if you have your handy emergency kit, this should not be an issue because you will have blankets and extra clothing.

If you are in an accident:

  • If you lose control of your vehicle or if you are hit by another motorist, regardless of the severity, call 911 if able.  If you are involved in an accident in an August Mack field vehicle, follow the same procedures of calling 911.  As soon as practical thereafter, call your supervisor or office manager as well as the office safety rep or corporate health & safety.
  • Be sure to obtain insurance information from all involved motorists.  This information will be needed for any insurance claims or settlements.
  • Participate in the incident investigation/near miss investigation process.  The sooner this process begins, the easier it will be to recall specific events leading up to the accident.
  • If your vehicle requires a tow, August Mack has renewed their contract with Fleet Rescue.  Each field vehicle should have a sticker in the upper left corner of the windshield with emergency contact information.

 

Post Date: 12/5/2017



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