11 tips to avoid a winter pileup from a pro trucker
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In eight years as a truck driver, Alan Wrobel has driven 810,000 miles (accident-free) in 45 states and Ontario. He now covers Ohio, Michigan, Ontario, and Wisconsin for a beverage distributor. Here’s his advice on how to handle yourself when the snow starts falling:
When you face a nasty winter storm, use your best judgment. Don’t go out unless you have to, and always make sure you have an emergency kit, warm blankets, and rations in the car.
Now, here are some tips from Wrobel, basic and advanced, to help ensure you won’t need to use that emergency kit.
Breathe and stay calm. Panic causes people to overreact. You need to focus.
Drive only as fast as your abilities and the capabilities of the vehicle permit for the road conditions. If you’re out of practice on snow and ice, slow down. If your tires are bad, slow down. If your car has a low ride height, it won’t handle accumulating snow well. Again, just slow down.
(Photo: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)
Your actions need to be controlled and deliberate. Hard acceleration, hard braking, and sharp curves all decrease traction. Maintain a consistent speed, open up the distance between you and the car ahead, and be easy on the brakes. Steer gently, and remember that inertia will be a factor.
Let There Be Light:
In inclement weather, turn on your headlights. This is so other drivers can see you. Your taillights will be brighter too.
Use Your Signals:
Here’s a trucker’s rule of thumb for lane change: Dry or rainy (not freezing) weather: three blinks, then move over for three blinks. Winter weather: four or five blinks, then move over slowly. Signal for turns before you start slowing down.
If you’re going significantly slower than the traffic around you, turn on your four-way hazards, take the rightmost lane, and just let everyone pass you. The hazards let other drivers know you’re going slower than they are, and this can help prevent a pileup.
Observe Tire Spray:
Pay attention to the water coming off of other vehicles’ tires. If there’s a lot of spray, the roads are wet. If there’s less spray and the road's wet, take extra caution; the roadway is starting to freeze. If the road looks wet with little or no spray, you’re on black ice. Be extremely cautious.