Winter travel means tricky driving

About 70 percent of U.S. road miles receive at least five inches of snow annually, according to Lancer Insurance. And while motorcoaches are heavier than cars and have better traction, they aren’t immune to problems caused by snow, ice and slush—particularly in places where such conditions aren’t expected.

Two passengers were killed and 44 other occupants were injured early this winter when a Teague VIP Express motorcoach tipped on its side in Byhalie, Miss., while traveling in “wintry mix” on Nov. 14. Police said the coach skidded on an icy overpass on Interstate 269 at Highway 78 and rolled onto its left side.

Another motorcoach carrying members of the University of Washington Marching Band slid off Interstate 90 near George, Wash., on Nov. 22. The coach, operated by MTR Western of Seattle, skidded off the right shoulder into a ditch and rolled onto its right side. Some 47 of the 56 people on board were taken to hospitals for treatment of injuries, most were not serious.

The simplest way to avoid crashes in to avoid driving in the worst conditions, says Bob Crescenzo, vice president of safety and loss control at Lancer Insurance Company in Long Beach, N.Y. But that isn’t always a practical solution. If operators of heavy vehicles must drive, they should:

  • Travel about one-third less than normal speed on wet roads and half of normal speed on snow-packed roads, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration advises in the commercial motor vehicle driving tips page on its website.
  • Check weather and monitor it throughout the trip and build extra time into the schedule and have backup plans.
  • Reduce speed, especially on curves, overpasses and entrance and exit ramps, and pull off the road if they feel they can no longer safely control the vehicle.
  • Be sure safety is a priority of not just drivers but also dispatchers and the sales team. Groups may not initially be happy if a trip is cancelled due to weather, but they’ll be safe and alive.
  • Be briefed on blowing snow, black ice, icy fog and glare—especially if unaccustomed to wintry weather, and monitor temperatures to be aware of black ice potential.
  • Carry supplies that may be needed if the vehicle is stuck in a snowstorm.

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