Winter driving

Winter driving

A glance outside and it is clear that a change is in the air. The unseasonably warm weather is finally giving way to chillier mornings, stronger winds and an increased frequency of driving rain showers.

Regardless of age, origin or occupation, for most people, bad weather is seldom a reason for celebration. However, for fleet managers in particular, winter – and the additional risks associated with it – is very often a serious cause for concern.

The statistics bear this out. According to Department for Transport statistics published last year, 38 people were killed, 544 were seriously injured and 4,584 were slightly injured in reported road accidents on Great Britain's roads in 2012 when there was snow or ice on the road surface.

The situation relating to occupational driving becomes even more sobering when these statistics are laid alongside figures from the RAC Foundation which state that one in three road crashes involves a vehicle being driven for work. Even a rudimentary grasp of mathematics is sufficient to show that any concern felt by fleet managers and relating to arrival of the winter months is far from unwarranted.

The effects of a road traffic accident on a company are multi-facetted. The obvious first focus is the potentially devastating effect on a staff member and their family. But there are other issues too. The company’s bottom line can be seriously affected through costly repairs or through the replacement of the vehicle. Then there’s lost staff time during any recovery period, as well as the impacts on insurance costs and the harder to measure effects on the company’s reputation (having your company’s logo emblazoned on a wrecked vehicle at the side of the road is hardly the best way to go about enhancing your corporate image).

But it’s not just getting to and from, and driving for, work that is important here – we all want employees to be safe at home too. And as good driving habits ingrained at work can be carried over into personal life, it makes sense that training provided by workplaces can really help to lead to safer motoring all round.

So what can be done to boost road safety and driver confidence in the face of bad weather? These tips are a good place to start:

Journey preparation – Check the weather before departure. Is that journey really necessary? Can it be made at a time when more daylight is available? Keep abreast of traffic updates and also of announcements from the emergency services. In addition, make sure you know where you’re going and that you have enough fuel to get there (and back!).

Breakdowns – unpredictable as they are inevitable, being prepared for the event of a breakdown is a must.  Warm clothes, a blanket, plenty of water and even a flask of something warm can certainly help to make a wait at the roadside much more bearable – not to mention safer. A torch and an ice scraper should be part of the kit. A fully charged mobile phone is also vital.

Lights – Make sure the vehicle’s lights are clean. Doing so will help other road users to see you, and also help you to see other road users.

Windscreen - Ensure that the windscreen washer bottle is filled up (and contains the correct concentration of antifreeze).

The sheer simplicity of these tips is perhaps the main reason why countless numbers of people continually fail to implement the advice they contain. But they really can make a difference. So stock up on de-icer, anti-freeze and windscreen wash, prepare a cold weather kit and get ready for the worst that this coming winter can throw at you.

Find out more about safe driving here.