Recently pilots at RAF Lakenheath were told to keep cockpit windows clean to avoid mid-air collisions. This comes after US Air Force F-15 jets were involved in 19 near-misses in the UK over the past 5 years. Sound familiar?

USAF jets might be a little more expensive than your average Ford Fiesta, but the message is the same. We don’t usually hit what we can see.

Reports suggest that over 2500 accidents result from poor vision from rain, sleet, snow or fog, each year.  So as winter approaches isn’t this a good time to remind your drivers to keep windows clean and clear of frost and spray to avoid collisions?

To achieve this requires preparation and planning. Planning ahead will help your drivers to keep safe on the roads during the winter. Whether that’s cleaning their windows like an F-15 pilot, or simply remembering to pack some gloves.

We’ve prepared a collection of tips that you can pass on to your drivers, from window clearance to what to do if you get stuck, to driving in heavy rain. This information also features in our Managing Driver Risks resource pack, which you can download here.

Preparation

  • Start early to allow time to clear and defrost car windows.
  • Check the tyres, battery, brakes, fuel, oil, lights, heater, cooling system, and wipers.
  • Keep emergency equipment (blankets, a first-aid kit, jump leads, torch, ice scraper, gloves, snacks and water) in the vehicle.
  • Clear and keep snow and ice off your mirrors, windows and lights.
  • Make sure all occupants of the vehicle wear safety belts.
  • Drive with your headlights on.

The dangers

  • In adverse conditions it is harder to see and takes longer to stop.
  • Traffic may also be slow-moving meaning journeys take longer than expected so drivers are more prone to tiredness.

Basic principles

  • Leave early to allow extra time to get to your destination.
  • Slow down – if visibility is poor or the road is wet or icy, it will take you longer to react to hazards and your speed should be reduced accordingly.
  • Travel, steer and brake sooner but more slowly than usual.
  • Maintain a safe gap behind the vehicle in front – stopping distances are double in wet and ten times greater in snow and ice.
  • Look out for vulnerable road users – be aware that people on foot, bicycles, motorbikes and horses are harder to spot in adverse weather and in the dark.
  • Look out for signs warning of adverse conditions.
  • Stay in control – avoid harsh braking and acceleration and carry out manoeuvres slowly and with extra care.
  • Use low gears to keep traction and brake gently to avoid skidding.
  • Stay on well-travelled and maintained roads.

Driving in rain

  • Maintain at least a four second gap between you and the vehicle in front.
  • Never attempt to cross a flooded road if you are unsure how deep it is.
  • Many vehicles will be damaged if you drive through just a few inches of water.
  • If you need to cross shallow water, only cross when there is nothing coming the other way and drive very slowly in first gear with the engine speed high to prevent stalling.
  • Test brakes immediately after driving through floodwater by driving slowly over a flat surface and pressing the brakes gently.

Driving in snow

  • Make sure windows are de-iced on the outside and de-steamed inside before setting off.
  • Maintain at least a 10-second gap between you and the vehicle in front.
  • It takes 10 times further to stop in icy conditions than on a dry road.
  • Use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin whilst taking care not to let your speed creep up.
  • When driving downhill, choose third and fourth gear to prevent skidding.
  • Drivers using a manual car should start in second gear rather than first to minimise risk of wheels spinning.
  • Brake gently to avoid locking the wheels – gentle manoeuvres are the key to safe driving.
  • Ice forms first on bridges, overpasses and shady areas. When driving over patches of ice decelerate slowly and hold the car steady.
  • Slow considerably BEFORE going into a bend. Don’t take sharp turns at more that 3-4 mph.

If you do get stuck

  • Do not spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper.
  • Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way.
  • Use a light touch on the accelerator, to ease your car out.
  • Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car.
  • Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels, to help get traction. (An old carpet is also ideal).

If you become stranded

  • Do not leave your car unless you know exactly where you are, how far it is to possible help, and are certain you will improve your situation.
  • If you are sure the car’s exhaust pipe is not blocked, you can run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour or so depending upon the amount of fuel in the tank.
  • Protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia with warm clothing.
  • Keep at least one window open slightly. Heavy snow and ice can seal a car shut.

You can download all these tips, plus advice on vehicle maintenance, breakdown procedures, employers’ responsibilities and much more in our fleet resource pack. Download it here.

We provide training to thousands of drivers each year to help them stay safe on the road. If you’d like to teach your staff how to keep safe on the roads, including specific winter lessons, contact us here.

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