Let's Drive Safely this Winter
by Mahanth S. Joishy
Most of us who drive around here know that Wisconsin winters bring challenging driving conditions such as snow, hail, ice, and freezing rain that can last for extended periods of time. Visibility on the road can be compromised both in the daytime and night time. However, there are certain simple precautions that we can take to drive safely this winter. The following applies to both City vehicles and personal vehicles.
Don’t drive if you don’t have to. Wherever practical, use mass transit instead of driving. All City staff are entitled to unlimited Madison Metro bus passes for both official and personal use in all seasons. Schedule conference calls instead of meetings to avoid putting miles on the road. Carpool when driving is absolutely necessary. Saving gas and reducing emissions are a pleasant byproduct of these practices.
Be prepared. Before each trip, make sure windshields, wipers, mirrors, windows, and safety cameras are cleared of ice and snow. Use a small shovel to clear tires buried in the snow. Keep an ice scraper and small shovel ready to use in the vehicle.
Slow and steady. One of the challenges of winter driving is slippery roads. Sometimes "black ice" on the road is not even visible from the driver's seat. Slow down. Leave earlier than in good weather. Avoid hard braking and hard acceleration, and increase following distance with the car in front of you to 8 seconds. Be prepared to respond to other vehicles slipping or fishtailing. Keep on the alert for pedestrians, bicyclists, and animals.
Winter equipment. In some cases winter tires, tire chains, winter wiper blades, and engine block heaters may be an appropriate solution. Fleet staff are available to advise City drivers about these products. If the vehicle has a 4x4 option, engage it at the start of your trip.
Avoid water bodies. Avoid driving on frozen lakes, ponds, and other waterways regardless of how solid they appear or the convenience factor. Unfortunately, a number of fatalities in the Midwest are attributed to vehicles falling through the ice.
More winter safety tips are available at the National Safety Council website.
Let’s start off the new year and new decade right with a safe winter out there!