Skip to main content
UW Facilities Blog

Winter driving safety


Winter driving
Rain, ice and fog…oh my!

While we’ve had a fairly moderate winter, as temperates dip,  we ask that drivers using UW vehicles and those driving on their own time take a moment to renew their commitment to being aware of some of the hazards the season brings. Don’t forget that Transportation Services Safety website provides links for rider alerts and other helpful ways to keep abreast of how inclement weather will impact the campus.

Ice (especially black ice), rain and other slippery conditions become more prevalent this time of year. You don’t need snow or rain to make black ice. All you need is a little moisture in the air and a road surface cold enough to freeze it. And it’s difficult to see. It also tends to form in the shade and on bridges before it forms anywhere else. Slow down and take heed. AAA has some awesome tips on how to handle and respond to wet weather conditions and winter drivingWhen it snows, a campus map  showing which areas have been cleared is constantly updated.

Fog and other low-visibility conditions including heavy rains and even snow are another concern. Slow down when you encounter these conditions.

Leaves, debris and oil become more common on the roadways in the fall and winter in Washington. Leaves and other natural debris can make a road slick. Oils that have been stored in the road surface all summer get lifted out by water on the road, adding to the slickness. Moss buildup becomes a problem on some roads. You must keep a sharp eye out for these hazards and slow down to avoid becoming a victim.

Wet roadways are a constant reality in the Northwest this time of year. Water on the road presents a hazard that some of us may not think about. Hydroplaning on a wet roadway can be completely nerve-wracking and dangerous.

Hydroplaning happens when the water in front of your tires builds up faster than your car’s tires can push it out of the way. This causes the car to rise up and slide on a thin layer of water between your tires and the roadway.

Taking these simple steps can help you avoid hydroplaning, and an accident:

  1. Slow down. Drive at a slower speed that is appropriate for the conditions of the road and your vehicle.
  2. Give yourself plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front of you. It takes longer to slow and stop in wet weather. You may need as much as 1 second of distance for every 10 MPH that you are driving in adverse weather.
  3. Avoid standing water or ruts that may collect water.
  4. If you do find yourself hydroplaning, remain calm.
  5. Don’t brake or turn suddenly.
  6. Ease your foot off the gas pedal until you can feel the road surface again. Brake gently to slow down further and gain even more traction and control.
  7. Don’t use cruise control in adverse weather.

Allstate and Esurance have an excellent page that help remind us of some of the hazards we see at this time of year in Washington – everything from fog to deer. And for a graphical depiction of winter driving pitfalls. click here.

Remember, in inclement weather or less-than-ideal road conditions, you need to slow down. Posted speed limits are intended for ideal driving conditions. Also, turn on your headlights in low visibility, any time your wipers are on, or during times of low light – it’s the law, and it’s excellent practice. Finally, give yourself and others on the road plenty of room to make mistakes and for you to react to them.

Driver Safety & Awareness Training

Anyone who needs to use a UW-owned vehicle is required to complete Driver Safety & Awareness training before driving, and refresh the training every 2 years. If you aren’t sure about your current status, use our lookup tool and check your certification status. Driver Safety & Awareness is offered online, and is also offered in a classroom setting for groups. For information or assistance, contact the Fleet Safety office at or 206-221-6838.