The winter months are tough, and the conditions can be tricky for driving – especially a big, hefty vehicle like a tow truck. For any driver, it’s important to keep in mind the fact that these conditions aren’t ideal. Winter can be an adventure for tow truck operators, who have to handle the emergency calls and handle the weather at the same time. Here are a few basic reminders for heading into the coldest season of the year.
4 reminders for driving in winter weather conditions.
1. Be aware of other drivers.
Of course, you have to be careful when you’re on the road and you have to be a responsible driver. But you also need to be alert for other cars on the road. There are any number of reasons why people might be speeding along or not being as attentive as they should – not to mention that there could be snow, ice, and sleet that could cause someone to lose control of their car even if they’re paying attention and doing everything they should. Anyways, be sure to keep your eyes open for other drivers.
2. Slow down.
Yes, we know this one sounds obvious, but it’s important: don’t speed. Whether it’s ice, snow, rain, fog, curves, traffic, or even an intersection, adverse conditions should be taken seriously. According to the FMCSA, 23% of large truck crashes happen when CMV drivers were traveling too fast for conditions. And another statistic – 25% of speeding-related large-truck fatalities occurred during adverse conditions, according to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System.
The FMCSA’s recommendation for speed during adverse conditions is this:
- Reduce speed by 1/3 on roads that are wet from rain or sleet (for example, if you would normally be going 45 mph, you would go 30 mph)
- Reduce speed by ½ on roads that are snow-packed (for example, if you would normally be going 50 mph, you would go 25 mph)
Pro tip: Don’t forget to take extra care during the first half-hour after it begins to rain. The roads are usually slicker during this time because the water mixes with oil that’s on the pavement.
3. Watch out for curves.
Be mindful of any turns or bends in the road. Take care to reduce your speed as you navigate curves, remembering that speed limit signs posted to warn drivers about curves are meant for passenger cars. And passenger cars are much smaller and lighter than tow trucks. A truck that takes a curve even at the posted speed limit can still roll over because they’re tall and have high centers of gravity. Braking in a curve can cause the wheels to lock.
4. Be careful getting on and off the highway.
If you ever have to get on or off the highway, be especially cautious around the entrance and exit ramps. It can be hard to gauge just how tight the turns on these ramps are, so it’s important to slow to a safe speed, especially if you’re battling some nasty winter weather. The FMCSA explains that only 5% of the highway system made up of entrance or exit ramps, but 20%-30% of large truck accidents happen on these ramps.
Cars don’t just stop needing to be towed because it’s winter. (If anything, one would imagine that towing needs would increase!) However, winter weather can make an already very demanding job even more challenging. Don’t forget to take special care during the winter months. Drive safe and look after yourself!
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Jackson, Tim. “Driving Too Fast for Conditions.” Tow Times, Nov. 2019,