Winter Weather Threatens Roadway Safety – Use Extreme Caution

Every year winter weather brings snow, sleet, freezing rain, and ice throughout the U.S. The intensity and frequency of these winter storms have been on the rise in recent years, and with it, so have the hazards of winter weather driving.

Whatever mode of transportation you use –from pedestrian to semi-truck –it is important to exercise caution when on the road. Safe driving practices apply to all roadway users but remember, the larger the vehicle, the larger the potential to cause harm. Therefore, it’s critical to be extremely cautious when you are driving (or driving near) a semi-truck, tractor-trailer, or any other vehicle that requires a CDL.

For truck drivers, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) 392.14 are in place. These regulations mandate that truck drivers use “extreme caution” when encountering hazardous conditions on our roadways.

“Extreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle shall be exercised when hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke, adversely affect visibility or traction.”

It is recommended that truck drivers reduce their speed or discontinue travel when such conditions exist.

The Commercial Driver’s License Manual, under Section 2.6.2 provides a good “common-sense” tip for matching speed to the road surface. This section teaches a professional truck driver to drive at a speed that is reduced by half or more of the road’s speed limit on packed snow. For example, if the roadway’s speed limit is normally 60mph, you would want to slow to about 30 mph. If the surface is icy, your speed should be reduced to a crawl, and/or you should stop driving entirely. While these winter safe driving tips were written to prevent truck accidents, these safe driving tips are valuable for all drivers.

Driving in Hazardous conditions is dangerous at best and deadly at worst.

Crashes caused by unsafe driving in winter weather conditions are preventable, and those careless drivers need to be held accountable for the harm caused by their poor driving decisions.

In 2021, Law Firm for Truck Safety lawyers took a case to trial that involved winter weather conditions, caused two fatalities, and left a third victim with serious brain injuries.

The jury found the truck driver was driving too fast for the icy road conditions and that the truck company failed to educate its truck drivers on the “safety-critical” regulations detailed in FMCSR 392.14.

Instead of providing continuing education on the basic principles found in the new entry-level driver training materials, the truck company had a policy that required their truck drivers to deliver, regardless of road conditions.

WINTER WEATHER DRIVING TIPS AT A GLANCE:

Winter weather driving tips can be found on your local DOT website, but here are a few of the winter driving tips and reminders proven to save lives:

  • Don’t travel in bad weather unless absolutely necessary.
  • Don’t crowd the plow.
  • Take it slow.
  • Fill up your fuel tank.
  • Stock your car with winter (and emergency) supplies.
  • Make sure you can see and be seen!
    Inspect and clean off your car’s windows, wipers, signals, etc., to ensure snow and ice will not cause any obstructions while driving. Remember, snow and ice can shift as it melts and as your car gains speed. Don’t cut corners cleaning off your car in an effort to save time.
  • Check your tires for proper inflation, tread depth, overall condition, etc., and replace if necessary.
  • Slow Down!
  • Plan out your route and give yourself extra time.
    Of course, the best thing to do during a snowstorm is to stay off the roads completely. However, that may not always be possible.
  • Many states have online maps showing real-time traffic and weather conditions for commonly traveled roads and highways. This can be helpful in avoiding particularly icy areas or places where the snowplows haven’t gotten to yet.
  • Avoid cruise control on snowy and icy roads.
  • Drop it and drive.
  • Wear a seat belt.
  • Use caution approaching intersections, bridges, ramps, going around corners, etc.
  • Remember: You can’t see black ice!

Cars and trucks aren’t the only types of transportation on the roadways!

Lastly, as a friendly reminder, please shovel your sidewalks, so pedestrians are not forced to walk in the street. This helps those who rely on our sidewalks for mobility.

We are all in this together. Stay warm and stay safe this winter!

Please take it slow on ice and snow and invest in your safety and the safety of your community by investing in your vehicle this winter. Perhaps you feel like new tires might be too expensive or that you don’t have the time to stock up on snow supplies before going for a quick drive. But the time and money invested in protecting yourself and your vehicle is nothing compared to the time and money you’ll be spending if you’re involved in a crash. Remember, we’re all in this together when it comes to keeping our roads safe. Stay safe, stay warm and safe driving!

Author: Truck Crash Attorney / Class A CDL Truck Driver – Andy Young

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