Risk Insight: Winter Driving

Property & Casualty, Risk

As temperatures begin to drop heading into the fall and winter season, it won’t be long before we are fighting dangerous road conditions. Rain, snow, sleet and ice are a few of the factors we must contend with during the colder months. Vehicle preparation and defensive driving techniques are critical in winter driving situations to prevent common types of collisions.

Motor vehicle accidents continue to account for the largest portion of worker fatalities year after year. In 2020 transportation incidents accounted for 37% of all work-related fatalities. According to the NHTSA In 2019, there were 440 fatal crashes, an estimated 33,000 injury crashes, and 182,000 police reported crashes that occurred in wintry conditions.

What can you do to prepare? Initial steps should be to ensure your vehicle is in proper condition prior to inclement weather.

  1. Test your vehicles battery. Drops in temperature can decrease your battery power
  2. Ensure your vehicles heat and defrost is working
  3. Check your cooling system and refill antifreeze reservoir
  4. Check the tread on your tires. Tread should be a MINIMUM of 2/32”
  5. Continue checking your tire pressure throughout the winter as tire pressure drops with the temperature. This includes your spare tire so it is ready to use if needed!
  6. Check the condition and function of wiper blades and replace them if needed
  7. Ensure windshield washer fluid is rated for -30 degrees to prevent freezing
  8. Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze and prevent running out of gas in frigid weather

Defensive Driving Techniques for Winter Weather:

  • Drive with headlights on during winter weather to increase visibility for yourself and others
  • Increase your following distance from other vehicles
    • You will need 3 to 12 times the amount of stopping distance as you would without precipitation
  • Cover the brake when potential hazards are present
    • Moving your foot from the accelerator to hovering over the brake will decrease reaction time and stopping distance
  • Scan ahead and side to side to gain advanced notice of potential hazards
  • Maintain a cushion of safety around your vehicle whenever possible
    • Distance in front allows increased reaction and stopping time
    • Space on the sides to stay out of blind spots and provide escape routes
    • Space to the rear helps avoid rear end collisions
  • Practice commentary driving
    • Verbalize recognized hazards and your reactions to them

Avoid Skids in Winter Weather:

  • Slow down ahead of curves and turns
  • When turning apply slight power to the gas and steer steadily with no abrupt changes in direction or braking
  • When changing lanes move in a long gradual line from one lane to another
    • Make the move with minimal steering change and steady speed
  • Watch out for ice patches on overpasses, bridges, and shady areas

If you have to stop your vehicle or you stall during winter weather follow these safety tips:

  • Stay with your vehicle
  • Try to increase visibility by using reflective markers, road flares, etc. and keep your interior dome light on
  • Ensure your exhaust pipe is unobstructed to reduce your chance of carbon monoxide poisoning
  • If possible, pull off of the road completely instead of using the shoulder due to decreased visibility

The NHTSA recommends keeping a few necessary emergency supplies in your vehicle for winter conditions including:

  • A snow shovel, brush, and ice scraper;
  • Abrasive material such as sand or kitty litter, in case you are stuck in snow;
  • Jumper cables, flashlight, and warning devices (flares and reflective markers);
  • Blankets, warm clothing, boots, gloves; and
  • A cell phone charger, water, food, and any necessary medicine.

Key Takeaways:

  • Verify your vehicle is ready for winter conditions
  • Practice defensive driving techniques to avoid collisions
  • Adjust your driving practices to the weather
  • Know what to do in emergencies situations
  • Maintain a basic emergency kit in your vehicle for winter conditions


Engage your M3 Risk Manager for additional information and resources.

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