Despite knowing it’s coming each year, the first significant snowfall seems to catch Kootenay drivers by surprise. The deadline for having winter tires on your vehicle passed on October 1, but there are other things the Shift Into Winter campaign advises you to do as well to keep yourself safe on winter roads.
The campaign is designed to raise awareness of the changing weather and driving conditions across B.C. and to remind drivers and employers to be prepared and plan ahead. It’s a joint provincial initiative supported by the Winter Driving Safety Alliance and managed by Road Safety at Work.
The Alliance offers the following tips for Kootenay drivers to help them stay safe on the road this winter:
• Prepare your vehicle by installing a set of four winter tires with the 3-peaked mountain and snowflake symbol.
“These tires offer the best traction on snow, ice, and in cold weather,” Louise Yako, spokesperson for the 13th annual campaign notes.
• Give your vehicle a pre-winter maintenance check-up every year
• Carry a winter driving emergency kit
• Check road conditions on DriveBC.ca before heading out.
“Is it safe for you to go?” Yako asks. “If possible, postpone your plans and avoid driving when road and weather conditions are poor.”
• Slow down to meet the road conditions. Keep at least four seconds between you and the vehicle in front.
“Give yourself plenty of room in situations where you may need to brake suddenly,” she says.
• Prepare yourself by knowing how to drive for the conditions before you get behind the wheel.
Know how to brake safely and get out of a skid. On slick roads, start slowly and accelerate gradually to maintain traction and avoid spinning your wheels. When stopping, plan well in advance, apply the brakes gently, and slowly add pressure. Avoid braking suddenly.
When driving look to where you want to go, this will help you to correctly steer your vehicle.
“You can’t predict how your vehicle, or another driver’s vehicle, will react in snow or on ice,” Yako said. “Think of it as building muscle memory: Your winter driving skills are rusty at the beginning of the season but you can commit them to memory by practicing them repeatedly as soon as wintry weather arrives.”
Use extreme caution and slow down when approaching highway maintenance equipment including plows, salt and sand trucks. Never pass on the right.
Shift Into Winter reminds us that winter driving more than doubles your risk of being in a motor vehicle crash.
“Winter is Mother Nature’s ultimate road test,” says Yako. “Winter conditions can change quickly in the Kootenays and push your driving skills to the limit.”
Winter roads can be dangerous due to snow, ice, rain, and fog. “Even the most experienced drivers are challenged by cold temperatures, slippery roads, and reduced visibility,” Yako says. “We want drivers in the Kootenays to shift into winter by preparing for winter driving before winter weather hits. The time to do that is now.”
In B.C., the average number of casualty crashes due to driving too fast for the conditions more than doubles from fall to early winter – to about 220 in December from about 99 in September, according to statistics on crashes reported to police from 2015 to 2019.