WEATHER WATCH – WINTER WALKING and DRIVING in NOVA SCOTIA

by John McKiggan

More winter weather on the way

Looks like we are in for another blast of winter tonight and tomorrow. Makes you wonder when it will end. Our senior associate Mark Raftus has been getting a lot of calls the last few days from people who have been injured due in part to the severe winter weather we have been having.

Mark has written this article to provide some advice to Nova Scotian’s on how to protect themselves from injury as we struggle through this latest storm. Take it away Mark…

On December 23, 2014 I posted an article PEDESTRIAN – CAR COLLISIONS: AN EPIDEMIC IN NOVA SCOTIA asking whether pedestrian-car collisions were becoming an epidemic in Nova Scotia.

In that article I commented that there was a relationship between bad weather, dark lighting conditions and pedestrian motor vehicle collisions. I noted that visibility was a key factor and as a driver or pedestrian we all have to pay more attention to prevent collisions from taking place.

At that time I noted that these statistics were collected before the onset of the winter season which would carry its own further inherent dangers of slippery conditions and even more reduced visibility. I suggested pedestrians and drivers alike would have to be even more watchful for each other as the winter weather arrived.

Winter weather creates collision conditions

With the recent spate of blizzards as we move into the heart of winter, I was following the news and an article was posted on January 29, 2015 advising that Halifax police and the RCMP responded to 22 accidents in one day!

This amount of collisions for just one day struck me as an alarming total given the availability of weather warnings and media reporting of slippery conditions as well as the volume of safety-first type advertisements we read daily on-line or television and hear on the radio.

The article quotes police representative and Staff Sergeant Ceccheto who said the higher than normal number of accidents is likely due to changes in road conditions following Tuesday’s blizzard. The freeze and thaw cycle of the last few days makes the roads more slick for drivers, leading to longer stopping distances.

“Conditions of the last couple days have been tricky,” said Cecchetto. “It was fairly icy last night, and then today with the warming up it caused almost slush like conditions. And of course slush will pull you and prevent you from stopping in a timely manner.”

Poor winter weather affects road conditions

Slowing down and being watchful for icy road conditions, other vehicles and pedestrians are all common sense tips we can practice to make winter driving safer. Transport Canada offers also winter safety driving tips at the following link with a list of top 10 tips to prevent problems before they occur:

Prevent problems before they occur: Top 10 tips

1. Get your vehicle ready for winter in the fall.

2. Install four matching winter tires.

3. Pack an emergency kit.

4. Learn and practice winter driving techniques before you need them.

5. Plan your trip, check road and weather conditions.

6. Remove all snow from your vehicle before each trip.

7. Give yourself extra travel time in bad weather.

8. Avoid using cruise control on slippery roads.

9. Travel with a fully charged cell phone.

10. SLOW DOWN and WEAR your seatbelt.

We all know that winter weather conditions change very quickly in the Maritimes and it is always best to drive cautiously at all times but especially so in poor weather conditions. If conditions are forecast to deteriorate the best policy is to consider not driving at all if it can be avoided. If you do need to drive please do so cautiously.

Walking in the winter

The crisp winter air is often invigorating and it is fun to get out of the house for exercise, family fun or to simply get to where you wish to go. However, icy pathways are a fact of life in the Maritime winter and caution should be taken when walking about. The Canada Safety Council provides winter walking safety tips to make the experience a more enjoyable one especially if you find yourself confronted with an icy patch of asphalt or sidewalk to navigate to get to where you want to go.

Facing an icy surface can be a paralyzing experience. Not everyone has grippers and other safety aids. So, what should you do if it’s impossible to avoid an icy patch? Believe it or not, body movements can increase your stability on an icy surface.

1. Slow down and think about your next move. Keeping your body as loose as possible, spread your feet to more than a foot apart to provide a base of support. This will help stabilize you as you walk.

2. Keep your knees loose — let them bend a bit. This will keep your centre of gravity lower to the ground, which further stabilizes the body.

3. Now you are ready to take a step. Make the step small, placing your whole foot down at once. Then shift your weight very slowly to this foot and bring your other foot to meet it the same way. Keep a wide base of support.

4. Some people prefer to drag their feet or shuffle them. If this feels better to you, then do so. Just remember to place your whole foot on the ice at once and keep your base of support approximately one foot wide.

Of course, it’s always better to avoid tricky situations by being prepared and planning a safe route for your walk.

Don’t let the cold weather stop you from enjoying the Maritime air. Just be mindful of the walking conditions and take common sense precautions to be safe as you move about.

Mother Nature and Old Man Winter are not to be trifled with in our Maritime Climate. Please be cautious when driving or walking about in the winter weather. Many of the collisions and slip and falls we hear about are entirely preventable with more attention being paid to weather, road and ground conditions as we move about in our communities.

As Grandma used to say “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and no where is that old adage more applicable than when driving or walking in the winter in Nova Scotia.

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