Driving Safely in Winter

Like all lumber operations, a big part of our business is working outdoors. When the sun is out and there is no snow, it’s easier. Then winter arrives, the first snowfall, and working outside in sub-zero temperatures with icy conditions pose some real challenges.

The key to handling the extreme weather change really comes down to being prepared and developing a safe work attitude — a perspective we want everyone who works here to bring to their jobs every day. And all of us who live where cold and snow happen part of the year, it’s important to adopt a similar mindset in our personal lives.

Taking the necessary precautions to avoid serious vehicle collisions and having the right gear and equipment available in case we are stranded becomes more critical as the cold and snow settle in.

Safe Winter Driving Tips

1. Be aware of the road conditions and the weather before setting out: Posted speed limits refer only to ideal circumstances. The more conditions degrade, the slower we should go.

2. Always scan the Road Ahead: Always a good rule, regardless of the weather. In the city, the general rule is to look 12 to 15 seconds ahead (just over one city block). On the highway, look about 20-30 seconds ahead.

3. Adjust Your Following Distance according to the weather conditions: When driving, always think about how quickly you can stop. Allow at least three times the normal following distance if snow and ice are present. Bridge decks are often slicker than other parts of the highway due to greater temperature fluctuations. On snowy roads, try driving outside of the previous tire tracks for extra traction.

4. Turn On Lights: Something we should all do year round. Snow and mud decrease a vehicle’s visibility. Turn on lights during the day and ensure they are clean.

5. Make sure winter clothing does not affect driving performance: Winter clothes can be bulky and restrictive, which creates another potential distraction when driving. Ensure winter clothes allow free and easy movement.

6. Use Brakes Safely: Despite what we’ve all heard, do not pump the brakes in slippery conditions. For vehicles with ABS brakes, use a firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal and don’t let up. For non-ABS vehicles use a threshold braking technique. Brake to the point just before wheels lock up, and if they do start to, ease up on the brake slightly and reapply.

Watch out for school children and other pedestrians

1. Be on the lookout for children and students walking to school when pulling out or backing out of a driveway.

2. Be alert and mindful that during dim mornings or dark evenings, it can be difficult to see pedestrians.

3. It is illegal to pass a school bus when it’s red lights are flashing red. Drivers on both sides of the road must remain stopped until the flashing red lights are turned off.

4. Drivers must slow down in school zones and be particularly alert for students during school hours, especially when dropping off and picking up children from school.

Those of us who live in the Slave Lake area know that travelling in more rural areas create their own unique challenges when driving. Accessing the necessary services can take time when you’re on the road and it’s many miles between communities.

An emergency road kit is always a good idea anytime of the year, but in the winter, it can make all the difference. The AMA has emergency roadside kits available or you can make your own, something we’ll talk about more in our November post.

This fall and winter let’s all be safe on the roads.

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