Risk Management Magazine

Search for Articles

Slick Roads

Slick Roads
160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne)
Fort Campbell, Ky.

When someone brings up the topic of safety, my first thought is the prevention of aviation accidents or hazards associated with being a pilot. Every day, safety is enforced in my company through risk assessments, briefs or monthly training. The fact is my job is very safe due to the restrictions, policies and regulations put into place to mitigate many of the hazards I may face. The most dangerous portion of my day actually takes place when I’m on the ground, driving back and forth to work.

Much of my daily 45-minute commute takes place on highway 41A, located outside of Fort Campbell, Ky. This highway is notorious for accidents due to motorists driving erratically, and I often deal with heavy traffic, inexperienced drivers, people texting and driving, road rage and environmental factors I can’t control. Not surprisingly, I often pass several accidents. While most of these are only minor, there is the occasional fatality.

My story begins on a cold day in January 2011. The forecast predicted sleet and rain, so one of my friends suggested we carpool due to the possibility of bad weather. At the time, I owned a Ford F-150 four-wheel-drive extended-cab truck, so I suggested I drive because my vehicle was better equipped for the weather conditions than his sports car. Since I was picking him up at his house, we decided to take I-24 to work. We figured it should take us about 30 minutes to get there.

Moments after we got on the road, the rain changed to sleet and then to snow. We contacted our supervisor to let him we might be a few minutes late due to the changing conditions. He told us the weather was quickly changing there, too, but there hadn’t been any word passed down about canceling our flight or releasing us from duty, so we continued to work.

Once we got on the interstate, I decided to stay in left lane since the road conditions seemed to be better suited for driving. We talked about the changing conditions and slowed our speed, staying with the flow of traffic and allowing plenty of room between vehicles. We passed several accidents along the way where vehicles had slid off the road into ditches, including one that had overturned into an embankment.

With our exit approaching, I knew I needed to change lanes. However, when my tires hit the slush that had built between lanes, my truck began to slide out of control. While we slid backward, I tried my best to regain control as we went over an embankment and slammed through an exit sign before coming to rest beside a farmer’s field.

My truck sustained major damage to the front end and bed when we crashed through the sign. We were very lucky we didn’t overturn or strike any other vehicles as we exiting the road. Best of all, we were uninjured — just a little shaken.

In the end, the most dangerous part of our accident was not the actual crash but, rather, some of the good Samaritans who stopped to assist us. Although they were trying to be helpful, they ended up causing other people to crash. It was a total disaster. If you must drive in winter conditions, keep these tips to help keep you safe:

• Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.

• Make sure your tread is in good condition.

• Keep your headlights and windshield clean.

• Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.

• Don't pass snowplows and sanding trucks. The drivers of these vehicles have limited visibility, and you'll likely find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.

• Don't assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel-drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.


Winter weather can cause dangerous conditions on roadways. Check out the following tips from the National Safety Council to keep you and your family safe this winter.

At any temperature, whether it is minus 20 F or above 90 F, the weather affects road and driving conditions and can pose serious problems. Because of that, it is important to plan your trip in accordance with the weather forecast.

Your Vehicle
Prepare your vehicle for winter. Start with a checkup that includes:

• Checking the ignition, brakes, wiring, hoses and fan belts.

• Changing and adjusting the spark plugs.

• Checking the air, fuel and emission filters and PCV valve.

• Inspecting the distributor (if you have an older vehicle that has one).

• Checking the battery.

• Checking the tires for air, sidewall wear and tread depth.

• Checking the antifreeze level and freeze line.  

• Your vehicle should also have a tune-up to ensure better gas mileage, quicker starts and faster response for pick-up and passing power. Check your vehicle’s owner's manual for the recommended intervals for tune-ups.

Necessary Equipment
An emergency situation on the road can arise at any time, so you must be prepared. Following the tune-up, ensure you have a full tank of gas and fresh antifreeze in your radiator. In addition, you should carry the following items in your trunk:

• Properly inflated spare tire, wheel wrench and tripod-type jack

• Shovel

• Jumper cables

• Tow and tire chains

• Bag of salt or cat litter

• Tool kit


Essential Supplies
Be prepared with a “survival kit” that should always remain in the vehicle. Replenish it after each use. Essential supplies include:

• Working flashlight and extra batteries

• Reflective triangles and brightly colored cloth

• Compass

• First aid kit

• Exterior windshield cleaner

• Ice scraper and snow brush

• Wooden stick matches in a waterproof container

• Scissors and string/cord

• Nonperishable, high-energy foods like unsalted canned nuts, dried fruits and hard candy

In addition, if you’re driving long distances in cold, snowy and icy conditions, you should also carry supplies to keep you warm such as heavy woolen mittens, socks, a cap and blankets.

If You Become Stranded
• Do not leave your vehicle unless you know exactly where you are, how far it is to possible help and are certain you will improve your situation.

• To attract attention, light two flares and place one at each end of the vehicle a safe distance away. Hang a brightly colored cloth from your antenna.

• If you are sure the vehicle’s exhaust pipe is not blocked, run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour or so, depending upon the amount of gas in the tank.

• To protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia, use the woolen items and blankets to keep warm.

• Keep at least one window open slightly. Heavy snow and ice can seal a vehicle shut.

• Eat a hard candy to keep your mouth moist.

  • 1 January 2014
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 13150
  • Comments: 0