Be Safe - Winter Driving Safety
Break out the snow tires Fred...
I just looked outside my living room window and saw the very first flakes of snow trying valiantly to win out over the rain.
It's a cold, blustery day here in the Lower Mainland, and the smart folks are already preparing for the inevitable, first snow fall that cripples the Greater Vancouver area every year.
Why is that you ask? The answer is very simple - all season tires. For some reason, I don't know what it is, but three quarters of the population in and around Vancouver, believe that all season tires will suffice when it comes to winter driving. After all...the snow never stays, so why spend all that money on snow tires, chains and winter driving school?
You would think more drivers would be conscious of the fact that west coast winter conditions can be hazardous.This is not to say that winter driving in the rest of Canada is a cake-walk. What I am saying is that most people who live in Alberta and the eastern provinces know that driving in the snow is hazardous.
However, the West Coast has something that the rest of the country doesn't...black ice. Black ice got its name from the fact that you can't see it on the road. There is no grey or frosty look to it, there is just a black stretch of highway that could be wet pavement or ice. The only way to tell which is which, is to walk or drive over it. Not a pleasant prospect when you're sporting all season tires!
Icy conditions in Portland
As I watch the little white flakes cascading towards the ground I am consumed with the prospect of rushing to the nearest Canadian Tire location to pick up a new set of winter tires! Because I drive a lot in my work, I can't be caught on slick roads with the tires I have now. Fortunately, I have a front wheel drive vehicle, but that isn't enough to save my ass when the roads get icy.
There are a lot of different types of snow tires for sale on the market. There are Bridgestone snow tires, Goodyear snow tires, car snow tires, truck snow tires...well, you get the picture. With all the different makes and models, it can be tough to figure out exactly which one to buy.
Some of us are even looking for cheap snow tires! (That would be me...) However, I don't think there are many of those puppies left! I called up my favorite place to get tires, and asked if they had any cheap snow tires, and was told, "No, sorry, out of stock!" So I guess it's off to Canadian Tire for me...
Surprisingly, winter weather can catch drivers off guard. Even though everyone knows winter is coming, it's amazing how unprepared we, as drivers, are. I know that a set of tires is not an inexpensive purchase, but it can quite possibly save your life, not to mention someone else's as well as thousands of dollars in car repairs, should you happen to wrap your car around a pole!
For those new drivers on the road, the ones who have never driven on snow or ice, it would be a very good idea to take a winter driving course, or attend a winter driving school. I was fortunate to learn how to drive in the snow when I was first behind the wheel, and I will never forget those lessons.
Some Provinces (and I think some States) have passed a law stating that drivers must use winter tires. There are some laws that state if a driver is involved in an accident and is found to be driving without winter tires, he is deemed to be at fault. Not good for an insurance claim!
It is a good idea to carry chains if you are doing any long distance driving. Always pack an extra blanket and food bars just in case you get stuck, and make sure to check the weather and travel conditions before starting out. Most major highways and freeways have websites that give you the latest travel conditions so you know if the roads are safe.
Most of our mountain highways have signs declaring "the use of chains beyond this point is mandatory", however, you will still get the person who thinks they can make the grade without them.
Here is a tip that a lot of people are unaware of. Keep your gas tank full when winter driving. The added weight helps keep the vehicle more stable, and for people who drive pickup trucks, make sure you put some extra weight in the back to avoid slipping and sliding around corners.
Nothing takes the place of experience and common sense. If you don't have experience driving in winter conditions, then you need to be careful and apply common sense. Simple things like, don't tailgate, don't speed, and don't slam on the brakes come to mind.
When driving in adverse conditions, you need to adjust your speed accordingly. Even with good winter tires, it takes longer to stop than normal. The same goes for tailgating. You need to leave more room than normal (something that rarely happens in the Lower Mainland...) otherwise you run the risk of smacking into the rear end of the car in front of you, or skidding into the ditch to avoid a collision when you hit the brakes - either scenario is possible when you don't apply common sense.
So this winter, get some winter tires and some common sense - it could save you thousands of dollars...and your life.