Wintertime traffic safety

11/7/12, 9:00 AM

The National Traffic Police, the Finnish Transport Agency, the Finnish Transport Safety Agency Trafi and the Meteorological Institute want people to pay attention to wintertime traffic safety. What can be done this winter to achieve a safe and smooth flow of traffic? What can we do to avoid multiple-vehicle collisions? How can bad winter conditions be predicted? Will the railway traffic run more smoothly than in the last few years? What must ferry passengers take into account in winter?

Every driver must take the winter conditions into account when preparing for the winter, when planning every single journey and above all in traffic itself. The Police and Trafi urge drivers to take the precautions necessary for winter conditions. – The car tyres must be in good condition and have the correct air pressure. Drivers should also ensure that their car is clear of snow and ice before they set off to drive, says Jussi Pohjonen at the National Traffic Police. It is also important to keep in mind that it takes time to clear the car and car windows of snow and ice, continues Inkeri Parkkari, Chief Specialist at Trafi. Before setting off, it is worthwhile to follow the weather forecasts and the warnings in force. You should reserve enough time for journeys in winter conditions and you should always take the varying conditions into account in your own manner of driving. – Good time management can help to avoid unnecessary stress and the risks caused by it, says Parkkari.

Especially when roads are slippery, traffic safety is achieved through teamwork between the drivers of different vehicles, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists. Also, adults should always set a good example for children in the traffic.

– The number of accidents varies from one year to the next depending on the weather conditions. Typically, many accidents occur on such days when it is snowing and the temperature is low. Whirling snow also significantly restricts visibility, says Ilkka Juga, Meteorologist at the Finnish Meteorological Institute. According to the Finnish Meteorological Institute, difficult weather conditions are often caused by a low-pressure area moving over or south of Finland. Such weather conditions can normally be easily forecasted. Local snowfall is more difficult to forecast; for example sea-effect snowfall at the coast can cause serious problems for the traffic in the Helsinki metropolitan area.

Things passengers should keep in mind when travelling in winter

Severe winter conditions affect all passengers, regardless of whether they are travelling by road, sea, rail or air. Drivers should pack warm clothes in the car, in case the journey is suddenly interrupted. – Don't forget your woolly hats, says Parkkari. People planning to travel by plane or train should remember that the timetables may be affected by the weather. In bad weather it is also important to reserve enough time for the transfer to the airport, says Parkkari.

Autumn and winter storms may also result in cancelled or delayed passenger ferries. – Passengers who get annoyed by changed timetables should keep in mind that all decisions are always based on safety, says Esa Pasanen, Senior Specialist at Trafi. People travelling by ferry in winter should bring warm clothes and consider whether it is necessary to go out on deck in bad weather.  It is also a good idea to check the emergency escape routes on the ferry in advance. In case of an emergency, the ferry staff will give instructions on how to use the life-saving equipment.

Strict criteria for ensuring maintenance quality

The Finnish Transport Agency's preparations for winter include methodical maintenance. In the maintenance of highways, the key position in the daily operations is held by the contractor. – It is important to assure that the agreed quality and level of service are achieved, says Olli Penttinen, Road Maintenance Specialist at the Finnish Transport Agency. Poor driving conditions occur more frequently due to the increasingly variable weather. Every driver must keep in mind that snow ploughing and other road maintenance takes its time.

The strict quality and safety criteria on the railways are also important. The maintenance work is always adjusted to the traffic in order to cause as few disturbances in the train traffic as possible. A prerequisite for this is smooth cooperation between the operators and traffic control, says Matti Levomäki, Head of Railway Infrastructure Management Unit at the Finnish Transport Agency.

In the ports, traffic restrictions are issued according to how thick the ice cover is. The traffic restrictions in the ports are primarily issued in order to ensure vessel traffic safety, says Jukka Väisänen, Senior Winter Navigation Specialist at the Finnish Transport Agency. Next winter five conventional and two multipurpose icebreakers will be used. Winter navigation is also teamwork between many parties; ports, shipping companies, industries, charterers, icebreakers, pilots and VTS centres.


Further information:

Finnish Meteorological Institute
Meteorologist Ilkka Juga, phone 029 539 3440
warnings in force: and #talvikelit

The National Traffic Police:
Jussi Pohjonen, phone 071 878 2052

Finnish Transport Agency
Olli Penttinen, road maintenance, phone 020 637 3582
Jukka Väisänen, winter navigation, phone 020 637 3326
Matti Levomäki, railway maintenance, phone 020 637 3893
winter conditions:

Finnish Transport Safety Agency Trafi:
Chief Specialist Inkeri Parkkari, phone 029 534 7089
Special Adviser Esa Pasanen, phone 029 534 7061 and #talvikelit