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The Risks of Volunteer Driving in the Winter, and How to Mitigate Them

The Risks of Volunteer Driving in the Winter, and How to Mitigate Them

Cold weather brings its own driving hazards that nonprofits must prepare for. One is simply the effect of cold on the vehicle, as some vehicles become difficult to handle and the driving becomes much more dangerous. These conditions call for adequate car insurance for volunteers and careful consideration of how to safely get to your destination through adverse conditions. 

Be Prepared 

Allow more room and more time entering the traffic stream until your vehicle reaches its normal operating temperature. And watch out – another vehicle may stall in front of you.

Clean off any frost on the doors and mirror prior to taking off and watch out for other drivers who haven’t. Check defrosters, lighting system, condition of tires, and other features.

Efficient windshield wipers, clean lenses on all lights, clean and properly placed rear-view mirrors are all necessary for an unobstructed view of the road.

Adverse weather conditions should determine your speed and stopping distance. Roadways may be slippery with frost, snow, ice, or rain. Curves may be surprisingly slippery. Shaded areas may be glazed. Approach bridges and highway ramps especially cautiously.

Safety on the Road

Make sure to inform your volunteers of the following tips:

  • Stay put. Only go out if absolutely necessary. Even if you can drive well in bad weather, it’s better to avoid taking unnecessary risks.
  • Go slow. Adjust speed down to account for lower traction when driving on snow or ice. Apply the gas slowly to regain traction and avoid skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry and take time to slow down for a stoplight. It takes longer to slow down on frosty roads!
  • Increase your following distance. An increased margin of 5-6 seconds will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
  • Know the brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Avoid unnecessary stopping. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If possible slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes. 
  • Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on slippery roads will only make the wheels spin. Try to get a little inertia going before reaching the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill slowly. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before taking on the hill.

Long-Distance Driving?

Check the weather along your route and when possible, delay your trip if bad weather is expected and before hitting the road, notify others and let them know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.

Keep cold-weather gear in the vehicle (extra food and water, warm clothing, a flashlight, a glass scraper, blankets). Keep at least half a tank of fuel in your vehicle at all times. 

VIS and the National Volunteer Transportation Center have developed an online vehicle safety training course specifically for volunteer drivers. You – The ‘Professional’ Volunteer Driver covers safe driving in winter, along with a variety of other topics to help your volunteer drivers carry out their assignments safely. The self-paced course, a free benefit for VIS members and their volunteers, can be completed in about an hour, at the volunteer’s convenience. When finished, the volunteer can generate a personalized certificate of completion, to provide his or her supervisor.

About VIS

Volunteers Insurance Service Association, Inc. (VIS) was established in 1972 for the purpose of providing insurance and risk management services for volunteer-based organizations. In addition to still providing these insurance services today on a nationwide scale, we have expanded to provide noninsurance resources for members to manage their risks and improve their operations. By transferring the volunteer risk exposure to our program, we can help you protect your organization. Contact us today at (800) 222-8920 for more information on our programs and services. Join now!