Updated: Jan 26, 2021
The Holidays are fast approaching and you may find yourself working in some real poor driving conditions. As a staff assistant providing security and consulting and other jobs requested by the client I have worked in some miserable weather conditions. I have seen numerous accidents involving other protection details. For those of us that work in regions that have inclement weather then this article is for you. Driving in snowy weather or winter driving conditions can be stressful to say the least. "Chance favors the prepared mind"-Louis Pasteur. Taking chances in winter conditions can do a huge disservice to you and your client. If you take the chances be prepared and have a plan just like a good advance, weather should be a factor. Hopefully these tips will help you.
Proper distance management, like the philosophy to always having an avenue of escape, means you need to always have room to stop. Stopping is not the same in winter conditions. You need more room. Don't be overconfident in your vehicle. Remember, the vehicle does what the operator commands. Look beyond the vehicle in front of you and don't focus on it's tail lights. Look around you at the other possible threats. Threats could be another car changing lanes in front of you (keep in mind there may be no lanes depending on the snow fall), another vehicle in which the operator panics, sudden stopping from another vehicle, or another vehicle losing traction. These observations are made from good distance management and will enhance your reaction time.
"I feel the need, the need for speed" -Top Gun. Please DO NOT feel the need for speed during winter conditions. If you are running late well then you didn't plan ahead. Again this has a lot to do with overconfidence. I have seen 4-wheel drives and all-wheel drives sitting in snow banks. Remember a 4WD and an AWD may be better to get you out of a snow bank but they still lose traction and slide on the road. This is operator error not vehicle error. Drive at a safe speed. If everyone is going at 35-mph DO NOT drive at 60 mph. Don't ruin someone else's day or life because you feel you need to drive faster. Speed is the number one primary collision factor in winter accidents. SLOW DOWN!!!!!
It is very common to be driving shortly after a heavy snowfall, in which a lot of snow has accumulated on the vehicle in which you are driving. Make sure that the windshields have been properly defrosted and cleared of any ice that will obstruct your view. Also clear the lights as well.The snow on the roof of your vehicle may fall on your windshield. The snow on someone else's vehicle might blow on to your windshield as well.
Proper distance management equals proper reaction time. Observing the vehicle's around you, proper distance management, and travelling at a safe speed will give you a chance to calmly clear the obstruction from your windshield. Always carry a good snow scraper in your vehicle don't drive in the winter without one. Also make sure the defrosters in your vehicle are fully functional. Don't drive drowsy and remember that the heater in your car and the snow fall can have kind of a hypnotic effect. Remain alert and focus on your duty as a driver.
Hydroplaning is when your vehicle slides across a wet surface and doesn't always occur during winter conditions. Hydroplaning can occur during the first few minutes of a light rain. The water hits the oil surface causing the road to be slippery. If your speed exceeds 35 mph this can be a deadly combination when your speed meets the slippery surface. Know your limitations and anticipate a slippery surface. To avoid the slippery surface keep your tires properly inflated. Avoid puddles and standing water and avoid lanes where water seems to accumulate. Follow the tire tracks in front of you. Do not drive in cruise control and drive in a lower gear. Lower gears not only keeps your car moving slower it gives the tires more power and more traction. Try not to make sharp turns and avoid hard braking. Let off the brake for a moment see where the car takes you. If you hit the brake hard the back end will likely carry you in a circle and you will definitely go for a ride. If you hard brake and turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction then a figure eight will likely be inevitable. Most importantly SLOW DOWN!
Black Ice is actually transparent. These conditions are usually when freezing temperatures and rain occur leaving the road in icy conditions. Where there is snow there is still traction, on ice there is no traction. Do not hit the brakes, keep your steering wheel steady.Take your foot off the accelerator.Do not overcorrect your steering if you feel you are sliding.
The role of your tires
The winter decisions of "Do I buy snow tires or not? Are they necessary?" always are a question I really don't have an answer to. I don't always buy snow tires and I've been just fine driving in winter conditions especially if you follow the other guidelines in this article. As a professional security driver who might be driving a client in a work vehicle, during winter conditions, I can say snow tires are very important.
Winter tires use a specialized rubber compound designed to have good traction in freezing temperatures and on icy surfaces. The tread on winter tires has special grooves and biting edges to dig into the snow to get maximum traction.
While, it is true, all-season tires can provide traction during the winter, their performance is roughly equivalent to half-worn snow tires. The softer rubber and more open tread pattern will wear rapidly during summer or warm-weather driving. A little food for thought, heavier vehicles tend to do better in snow than smaller vehicles.
Many driver's like to take the chance. If a sign indicates that you need 4WD or chains then you need 4WD or chains. Remember chains are not to be used for speeds in excess of 35 mph. If an off or on ramp is closed then it's closed. Anticipate the road closures. Slippery when wet means slippery when wet. Avalanche warnings and falling rocks mean just that. Obey signs and follow the rules of the road. Please where your seat belt and by all means DO NOT text and drive especially during winter conditions.
Our biggest adversary during winter driving is impatience. It affects our speed and ultimately our decision making. This is not the time to stop someone from changing lanes. Trying to get somewhere fast because we're late has already been discussed. Give yourself time. If you follow the tips that have been discussed then impatience won't even be a factor. Prepare yourself for that person that is scared to drive in the snow, because they are out there. They will make erratic and unpredictable movements. Know your vehicle and know your own personal limitations. Be keenly observant for the merging intersections where another vehicle cannot stop in time. If you are impatient winter driving will cause you to be careless.
Stuck in the snow
Ahhh yes, so you're stuck in the snow. Assuming it's not accident related of course. Somewhat of an easy solution. As a professional you should always be prepared. Carry a bag of rock salt, snowmelt, or even cat litter in your vehicle. It will assist with the traction to get you out of a sticky situation. Also if your vehicle has traction control turn it off. Traction control prevents wheelspin and wheelspin is what helps you get unstuck. Just be sure your vehicle is actually moving.
On your newer production motor vehicles you may have a traction control system which is typically a secondary function of the electronic stability control. It is designed to prevent loss of traction. The traction control system reduces engine power and applies the brakes to specific wheels that are slipping. The only time it is really necessary to turn the traction control system OFF is when the vehicle is stuck in mud, snow, or ice.
Preparing your vehicle for winter
Just like you should have a vehicle kit in your car have a "winter supply box" as well. Your winter supply box might include road flares, jumper cables, ice scraper with brush, tire chains (if necessary), etc. Also, a basic winter survival kit is necessary especially in rural or desolate areas.Check your engine coolant and antifreeze levels.Check your tire pressure and tire tread. The change in temperature will change your tire pressure. Consider the "Lincoln" test, take a Penny and face it with Lincoln's head going into the tread, if you see all of Lincoln's head then you need to replace the tire, especially before winter.Use winter windshield wiper fluid. Winter windshield wiper fluid won't freeze on your windshield.Also your oil should be winter grade as well. The colder the weather the thinner you want your oil. The lower the first number in the oil specification the lower the viscosity. For example, 5W-30 oil is better than 10W-30 in the winter.
I hope these tips help. Although I use these tips for those of us working for a client in which driving is a necessity. These tips are made to be read by all readers. Have a safe and joyous winter and many holidays for years to come.