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Red Car in Snow

Well, it’s official - winter has arrived in Canada. This year, many provinces are already experiencing one of the worst deep freezes in recorded history. Conditions are icier, commutes are longer, and the risk of accidents is skyrocketing.

It’s no surprise that keeping drivers safe in winter conditions is a top concern for fleet managers. Safe drivers are more productive, no litigation is incurred as a result of accidents, and ultimately, reduced stress for everyone makes for a better working environment. There are simple steps you can take to ensure your drivers stay safe out there, and your vehicles remain on the road this winter.

Safe Winter Driving Tips to Avoid Catastrophe

Tip #1: Put snow tires on your fleet vehicles

Snow tires today are more advanced than ever. Manufacturers continue to evolve the special rubber compounds used to make them. Even when temperatures dip to seasonal lows, the rubber remains pliable, allowing it to grip the road better. When you combine this with ice-specific tread patterns, drivers are able to steer and brake more safely.

Then you say, “Hey I’ve got some good all season tires on my car. Why do I need winter tires?”

Third-party testing has delivered the following verdict:

The winter tire-equipped Cayenne stopped in an average distance of about 61 feet, while the all-season tire-equipped Cayenne took 102 feet (an additional 41 feet or about two and one-half car lengths). A 41-foot difference in stopping distance during a panic stop at 30 mph on a snow-packed road is more than enough to determine whether it's a near miss or an accident!

"There's no such thing as an all-season tire. If it's not a winter tire, it's not good for winter," says Brian Patterson, president of the Ontario Safety League.

In Quebec, where snow tires are now mandatory, winter collisions have been reduced by nearly 20%. That alone should be inspiration enough for all fleet managers to put winter tires on their vehicles.

How to Get the Most Value from your Winter Tires

Like anything, winter tires are designed for a specific purpose. Don’t leave them on your vehicle all year long. The compounds that make them so useful in the winter wear down quickly in the warm weather. Winter tires last only three seasons, compared to about five for their all-season cousins.

The easy way to get around the hassle of changing tires every winter and spring is to buy a second set of rims for the snow tires. They'll save you future costs when it's time to take them off in the spring. Many tire companies now offer off-season storage of your alternate pair to save you the hassle of loading and unloading from your trunk.

Tip #2: Equip drivers with safe driving knowledge

Make sure all snow and ice are cleared from the vehicle before sending drivers out. Emphasize how critical it is that drivers drive slowly. You should make any necessary scheduling adjustments to allow them ample time to arrive at service areas.

Additionally, communicate to drivers to increase their following distance. The Canada Safety Council recommends a distance of eight to 10 seconds.

Finally, ensure drivers are familiar with correct braking procedures. Releasing the gas pedal well in advance of stopping will result in less pressure needed on the brakes.

Here are some quick tips for driving on ice:

  • Going back to Tip #1, it’s critical to ensure you have good winter tires on your vehicles.
  • Educate drivers on how to spot black ice. Tell them to look out for dark, wet-looking patches on the road.
  • If drivers are caught on black ice, they should remove their foot from the gas pedal, and avoid slamming on the brakes.

Conclusion

Snow tires are crucial for anyone driving in winter conditions. However, while snow tires do improve winter driving safety, there are also actions drivers themselves can take to reduce the risk of accidents.

When road conditions are challenging, instruct drivers to simply slow down. Don’t fill their schedule with more appointments than they can safely meet. They’ll get where they need to be in one piece and feel more relaxed in the process.

Driving in snow and ice is a challenge at the best of times; winter tires and proper driving habits will help drivers navigate the roads better and safer.

Article by Derek Wcislo


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