Winter’s only just begun, but its arrival has brought a flurry of flakes and freezing rain, which has created dangerous driving conditions on many of Chilliwack’s roads and nearby highways.
Over the holidays, ICBC estimated an average of 340 people province-wide were hurt in 1,200 crashes: that’s 22 accidents and six people injured every hour from Christmas Eve evening to midnight on Boxing Day. And while not every case can be attributed driver error, many instances could be avoided if drivers slowed down or regularly practiced safe driving techniques to cutoff any possibly disastrous circumstances.
The road to safe driving begins before even leaving the driveway said ICBC’s Joanna Linsangan. “It’s about preparing your vehicle,” she says. “Start at the roof and work your way down clearing off all the snow and ice. Make sure you wipe off the side mirrors and the license plate.”
Charlz Sebastian, who owns RoadQuest Driving Academy, agrees visibility is one of the most important aspects of winter driving. “Many drivers drive their cars with a lot of snow on the windshield and they don’t have a lot of visibility,” he says. “It’s not good.” Clean the car off completely while warming it up: it won’t be time wasted.
In addition to providing yourself with ample visibility, Sebastian says it’s as equally important to make sure the other cars on the road can see you. A good rule of thumb, he says, is: “If you need to use your wipers, you need your lights on.”
But a glowing dashboard doesn’t mean your lights are on. “Make the physical switch to double check they’re on,” adds Linsangan.
Another important aspect to safe winter driving is having a properly equipped vehicle: a 4x4 isn’t needed, but everyone should have winter tires—it’s important to remember it’s the law when driving east of Chilliwack.
And even though winter tires can seem like an unnecessary expense to some, Sebastian says it’s better to be safe than sorry and put them on your vehicle.
“Proper tires help divers safely accelerate and decelerate,” he adds. “So don’t worry about saving money: not using winter tires will be more expensive when you have an accident.”
“And even if your vehicle isn’t well-suited (yet), it’s not too late,” says Linsangan. “There’s still plenty of winter to come.”
Besides ensuring your vehicle is safe and can be seen, Sebastian and Linsangan both say the next most important thing to remember when driving in the winter is it’s not summer.
“Speed-related crashes peak during the winter months,” says Linsangan. “It’s not summer outside, so people need to adjust accordingly.”
The best way to achieve that is to slow down and drive appropriately, says Sebastian. “The speed limit is only for good weather conditions,” he explains. “Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Plan your route accordingly and give yourself enough time so you won’t have to be in a hurry.”
Sebastian also reminds winter drivers to increase the safe distance between cars to 10 seconds. “In Scotland they visualize a 10-car space between vehicles and they have far less accidents,” he says.
For the most part, the Fraser Valley doesn’t experience winter as harshly as the rest of the province, but drivers still need to feel confidence in both their vehicle and ability to drive in the snow.
“Before getting into their car, drivers needs to ask themselves, ‘Do I feel comfortable driving in the snow and ice? Is my car safe enough?’ If the answer is ‘No’, it’s probably best to leave the car at home,” says Linsangan, emphasizing safety is always the best course of action.
“There’s nothing wrong with saying, ‘I’m not comfortable to go out driving in this (weather),’” and either find an alternative method of transportation—public transit, car pooling, calling a cab—or staying avoid it all together by staying home.