With this month’s record cold temperatures and record snowfalls continuing, we are keeping with our cold weather operations theme. In this week’s report an engine company, who was following a snow covered vehicle, is dealt a surprise:
“I was driving the fire engine to a business for an in-service on a main arterial street in town. I was following a white car with the taillights almost all covered with snow. As we approached a cross street, the driver of the car suddenly applied the brakes and proceeded to turn to the right. I honestly did not see a turn signal (if it was even on) or the brake lights until two of the guys on the apparatus yelled to watch out! I applied the brakes and, even with ABS, began to skid towards the rear of the car…I don’t believe I was following too close for conditions (slick roads, blowing snow and cloudy) given the rig I was driving. I honestly believe the driver of the car made a last second decision to turn and almost caused an accident in the process…”
“The other guy” could be considered the second most unpredictable element of our industry next to fire. Each day we maneuver our apparatus through traffic filled with countless examples of distracted drivers and vehicles unfit for the road. Snow covered vehicles are no exception. Additionally, road conditions require increased stopping distances and exceptional awareness of the handling characteristics of our rig, road conditions and “the other guy.” Once you have read the entire account, consider the following:
1. Imagine you are the driver of the engine in this week’s report, skidding toward the snow covered vehicle in front of you. Who is at fault under your state motor vehicle law if you strike the vehicle?
2. This week’s near miss occurs during “slick roads, blowing snow and cloudy” conditions. Does your department have parameters for suspending outside activities during certain weather conditions?
3. Since the driver in the white car “made a last second decision to turn…” would you expect that driver to react calmly and yield to a responding emergency vehicle?
4. Some experts recommend increasing your following distance to 4 vehicle lengths when driving on snow covered and icy roads. Convert the vehicle lengths to feet for the rig you drive. How far behind a vehicle should you be following in snow/ice conditions using this formula?
5. Do you engage your entire crew to assist with watching out for road hazards while driving your apparatus?
Have you experienced a near miss while driving due to snow and other weather extremes? Increase the knowledge base of the fire and emergency service by submitting your report to www.firefighternearmiss.com today.
Note: The questions posed by the reviewers are designed to generate discussion and thought in the name of promoting firefighter safety. They are not intended to pass judgment on the actions and performance of individuals in the reports..