ASSE Safety Tips Show Motorists How to Drive Safely During Bad Weather

Dec. 15, 2009
As transportation incidents continue to be the number one cause of on-the-job deaths in the United States, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is offering driving tips to help motorists navigate safely on our roads, especially during severe weather conditions.

“During inclement weather we are urging drivers to be even more cautious when driving, not only for their passengers and themselves, but for fellow travelers and the thousands of workers whose vehicles are their office – such as law enforcement personnel, firefighters, emergency responders, post office workers, truck drivers, utility workers and more,” said ASSE President C. Christopher Patton, CSP. “Treacherous weather and the conditions it brings cannot be controlled by motorists. However, if motorists drive cautiously they are more likely to make it to their destination safely and without incident.”

According to the National Academy of Sciences, adverse weather conditions reduce roadway safety, capacity and efficiency, and often are the catalyst for triggering congestion. In the United States each year, approximately 7,000 roadway deaths and 450,000 injuries are associated with poor weather-related driving conditions. It is reported that weather plays a role in approximately 28 percent of all crashes and accounts for 19 percent of all roadway fatalities. In addition to the intangible toll these crashes cause, the economic toll of weather-related deaths, injuries and delays is estimated at $42 billion per year.

Some of the leading causes of fatal roadway crashes are failure to keep in the 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; distracted driving; operating in an erratic/reckless manner; and failure to obey traffic signs and signals. ASSE suggests these tips to help increase roadway safety during winter weather travel:

Knowledge: Before leaving home, find out about the driving conditions.
Clear: Remove any snow on your vehicle’s windows, lights, brake lights, roof and signals. Make sure you can see and be seen.
Inspect: Check your vehicle’s tires, wiper blades, fluids, lights, belts and hoses. A breakdown is bad on a good day and dangerous on a bad-weather day.
Time: Leave plenty of time to reach your destination safely.
Seatbelts/caution: Always wear your seatbelt and properly restrain children in the back seat of a vehicle. Slow down and proceed with caution.
Don’t be distracted while driving: As of today, a total of 17 states and Washington, D.C., prohibit texting while driving for all drivers; 21 states and D.C. prohibit novice drivers from any type of cell phone use; 16 states and D.C. do not allow school bus drivers to use their cell phones in any way while working. Distracted driving is deadly even in good weather.
Don’t speed: The faster you’re going, the longer it will take to stop. When accelerating on snow or ice, take it slow to avoid slipping or sliding.
Distance: Give yourself space. It takes extra time and extra distance to bring your car to a stop on slick and snowy roads. Leave extra room between you and the vehicle in front of you.
Brake: Brake early, brake slowly, brake correctly and never slam on the brakes. If you have anti-lock brakes, press the pedal down firmly and hold it. If you don’t have anti-lock brakes, gently pump the pedal. Either way, give yourself plenty of room to stop.
Control: When driving on ice and snow, do not use cruise control and avoid abrupt steering maneuvers. When merging into traffic, take it slow. Sudden movements can cause your vehicle to slide.
Vision: Be aware of what’s going on well ahead of you. Actions by other vehicles will alert you to problems more quickly, and give you that split-second of extra time to react safely.
First snow or ice: Drivers often aren’t prepared for winter driving and forget to take it slow. Remember to drive well below the posted speed limit and leave plenty of room between cars.
Black ice: Roads that seem dry may actually be slippery – and dangerous. Take it slow when approaching intersections, off-ramps, bridges or shady areas – all are hot spots for black ice.
Limited visibility: Stay attentive and reduce speed. Know what’s going on around you.
Four-wheel drive: It is suggested that when driving on snow and ice, go slowly, no matter what type of vehicle you drive. Even if you have an SUV with four-wheel drive, you may not be able to stop any faster, or maintain control any better, once you lose traction.
Skid: If in a skid, turn the steering into the skid, easing off the accelerator but not breaking suddenly.

Other tips from ASSE include:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Give snowplows room to work. The plows are wide and can cross the centerline or shoulder. Don’t tailgate and try not to pass. If you must pass, take extreme caution and beware of the snow cloud. Snowplows travel below the posted speed limit. Be patient. Allow plenty of time to slow down. A snowplow operator’s field of vision is restricted. You may see them, but they don’t always see you. Keep your distance and watch for sudden stops or turns.

Additionally, an employer whose employees drive in areas that experience cold and inclement 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: 1) 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; 2) 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. 3) Check weather conditions before traveling – a National Weather Service 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.

For a copy of ASSE’s free “Prevent Roadway Crashes” brochure, please go to under “press kit” where it can be downloaded or request a copy at [email protected].

Related articles:

NSC Introduces Distracted Driving Resource Kit | EHS Today | March 2009
In January, the National Safety Council (NSC) became the first organization to call for a nationwide ban on motorists' use of cell phones and messaging devices while driving, and urged businesses and legislators to enact policies prohibiting the practice. NSC is now offering a Distracted Driving Resource Kit for companies ready to educate employees about their risks.

Danger Ahead! Cell Phones and Driving
Recent research suggests that using a cell phone while driving may be just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated and it can cost a company millions if the company is found liable for an on-the-job employee involved in an accident while talking on a cell phone.

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