DES MOINES — Winter is already upon us in Iowa and has brought weather that can be intimidating to drive in for both passenger vehicles and trucks.

Snow and ice can threaten even the best truck drivers, and trucking companies are doing their part to educate their drivers on how to mitigate accidents.

“Each winter we would reiterate to our drivers to slow down and give yourself extra space,” says Gary Handley, former Safety Director at BTI Special Commodities, Inc.

In dry conditions, trucks require a 91 percent longer stopping distance than passenger vehicles. This distance just about doubles when the road is wet, so it is crucial that both truck drivers and passenger vehicles avoid tailgating and pulling out in front of one another in hazardous conditions.

When asked what advice Handley would give passenger vehicles on driving safely alongside trucks in bad weather, his response was, “Always make sure your headlights are on. Cars and trucks nowadays have automatic lights that adjust to light outside, meaning sometimes in blizzard conditions the lights never come on. This makes it near impossible for truckers to see you and can cause a crash. By making sure these lights are actually on is an important step in preventing accidents.”

The Iowa Motor Truck Association (IMTA) offers the important tips for both passenger vehicles and trucks to ensure everyone arrives at their destination safely, even in hazardous weather.

1. Winterize your vehicle. Ensure that you have windshield wiper fluid and that your wipers are working, check your tire pressure, add antifreeze if necessary, make sure your headlights and taillights are working properly, and be sure you have at least half a tank of gas to avoid a frozen fuel line.

2. Pack an emergency kit. In the case of an accident, you want to be as prepared as possible to keep yourself and your passengers safe. In addition to basics like an ice scraper and jumper cables, make sure you also have warm clothes and shoes, blanket, phone, food and water.

3. Increase following distance. When driving on snow or ice, it takes longer to stop than on dry roads, especially for heavy trucks. AAA recommends increasing your following distance to about five or six seconds to avoid a crash when you need to brake suddenly. Keep an eye on vehicles in front of you and be prepared to brake if you see their brake lights shining.

4. Do not use cruise control when driving on ice or snow. If your car hydroplanes or spins, cruise control will cause your car to accelerate and maintain a constant speed and you will end up losing control of the vehicle. Drive at a slow, steady speed that you can maintain.

5. Avoid unnecessary lane changes. Ice and snow often gather in between lanes, even when the lane itself is clear. Changing lanes can cause you to lose traction and result in a crash. Limit your lane changes to a minimum and check your surroundings first – trucks especially will not be able to stop or slow down quickly enough if you are too close in front of them.

Following these simple winter driving tips from IMTA and driving cautiously will enable Iowa’s roads and interstates to be much safer during these winter months. Even the best driver can be tested in winter conditions so pay attention to the weather and determine if you really need to be out on the road.

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