Winter Driving Distances


Holy Smoke! I can’t believe that another summer has flown by. I’ve seen some snowflakes and depending on where you are situated, you might be in the midst of winter weather. Winter driving is upon us once again.

You long-haul guys see all the bad weather. Already parts of Canada and the northern USA have seen snow. So I believe it is time to once again remind you about a few safe driving techniques that have proven over and over to be safe driving habits.

The most obvious is your following distance. You need a good following space at all times but when the weather is bad outside, you need even more space. How much space? Well, on dry pavement, when you are traveling at 105 km’s you need 660 feet to stop safely. I hear you! I know 660 feet is a massive amount of space. And if you are in a major city, you are thinking that there is no way that you can keep 660 feet between you and the next vehicle – those four wheelers keep jumping into your safety cushion. And you are also reminding me that I said on dry pavement. What is a truck driver to do? Park the truck?

Over the years I’ve heard it all, excuses as to why drivers can’t keep the space. And I will continue to listen to it. I’m doing a ‘Winter Driver Meeting’ this Saturday and I will be discussing with drivers this very topic. I know that some will be vocal and express themselves, and other drivers will sit silently and say to themselves, ‘It just can’t be done, 660 feet. What the heck is he talking about?’

Here is what I hear all of the time, “Darn four-wheelers, they don’t know how to drive around trucks. They don’t know how much space I need to stop”. This is certainly true for many drivers, not just car operators.

Am I different from you? I know that when I drive on the 401 in southern Ontario that I can keep the space. Well, at least some of the time I can keep it. I see other truck drivers being able to keep the space most of the time as well. How can they do it? Are you are telling me that there is no way for you to keep your safety cushion most of the time? Notice that I didn’t say all the time. That is because I know that ‘All of the time’ is likely not possible. At least it’s not very likely while you are on major highways within a city like Toronto, Chicago or Los Angeles. But how do some truck operators manage to keep the space most of the time?

They are moving just a tiny bit slower than the flow of the traffic. In this way, even when a car or another truck takes away your space cushion, the cushion quickly re-appears because they are moving slower than the general flow of traffic. That is how they are maintaining their space most of the time.

Now remember that I started this article by referencing winter driving. Now I have a question for you; how much space do you need on wet pavement if you need 660 feet on dry pavement? We are getting into winter driving and wet pavement is going to happen. And by the way, 660 feet is about the length of two football fields so what do you think? Well, if you thought around four football fields for wet pavement or about 1200 feet you would be correct and get the Safety Dawg pat on the back.

So if you think that driving on dry pavement is challenging to keep enough space to be safe, you will need to think of strategies to have even more space on the wet winter roads. But it is definitely worth trying to do.

Please be safe out there.

Chris Harris
Top Dawg, Safety Dawg Inc.
@safety_dawg (twitter)

About Chris Harris, Safety Dawg

Chris has been involved in trucking most of his adult life. He drove truck for and worked in various office/management positions for a major truck company. His last position of 5 years in the safety department where he was responsible for the recruiting of Owner Operators and their compliance. He joined a trucking insurance company in 2001 and has been in the insurance side of things until making Safety Dawg a full-time endeavour.