Driving in snow and ice during the winter is often a recipe for disaster but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends practicing the three Ps if you’re insistent on driving. The first P has to do with preparation. What can you do to better prepare yourself for the journey that is ahead of you?
First and foremost, you can make sure that your vehicle is safe to drive by checking your battery, tire tread, and windshield wipers. Remove all snow and ice from glass to prevent visibility problems and make sure that you have must-needed supplies like a flashlight, pair of jumper cables, bag of kitty litter, ice scraper, a first aid kit, and blankets. If you’re going on a long trip, make sure you have food, water, and a cell phone charger readily available. Keep in mind the number of people and pets traveling with you and have enough supplies on hand to accommodate everyone in the vehicle.
You’ll also want to plan your route and practice cold weather driving in an empty parking lot in daylight hours. This will allow you to arrive safely to your destination despite harsh conditions. If you are stranded, mark the area around your car with bright markers, clear your exhaust pipe, and only run the engine for as long as it takes to raise the temperature in your vehicle enough to warm you.
The second P is all about protecting yourself and your passengers. Always wear a seatbelt and make sure that children are safe and secure in child seats. Keep a special seatbelt cutting tool in your car, van or truck as a precautionary measure. If you’re involved in a roll over or find your vehicle submerged in water, you can get everyone out quickly.
The last P is about prevention. You want to avoid having an accident when traveling in ice and snow. Exercise caution and watch out for pedestrians. Do not drink and drive. If you go out to a social event, make sure that there is a designated driver that is willing to take you home. If there isn’t, hire a cab. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that “Distracted driving is a dangerous epidemic on America's roadways. In 2012 alone, 3,328 were killed in distracted driving crashes.” There are three main types of distractions that inhibit drivers and this is even more the case in bad weather conditions. Distractions can be manual, visual or cognitive. Some examples of distractions include texting, using a cell phone or smartphone, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, and grooming. Navigation systems and maps can also cause accidents as well as watching videos and adjusting radios and CD players.
The NOPUS notes that “At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010.” Texting and driving has become one of the number one concerns for teen drivers and that’s without snow and ice on the roads. Campaigns geared specifically at young people attempt to cut down on the number of traffic fatalities caused by texting and driving.
“A quarter of teens respond to a text message once or more every time they drive. 20 percent of teens and 10 percent of parents admit that they have extended, multi-message text conversations while driving,” says the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. This is an alarming statistic that places motorists in dangerous situations. If you happen to be driving in bad weather, turn off your phone or at least wait to answer any messages that come in while you’re traveling to your destination.
By avoiding distractions and by practicing the three Ps, motorists can drive their vehicles in the worst weather. The key to being safe is to be prepared. That means maintaining the car, van or truck that you’re driving, having the tools on hand to get you out of a sticky situation, and to plan accordingly for long trips.