“Oh No – Is that Snow?!” – Safe Driving Tips for the Winter Season

by Mark Raftus

November 16th marked the first substantial winter snow fall in the Halifax area for the 2018 winter season.  I awoke, looked out my front window and sadly noted snow covered streets with heavy, wet snowflakes falling. The radio forecast called for the snow to turn into ice pellets and later into rain. A very greasy day awaited and I suspected the roads would be very slippery.

As I set out for the drive to the office I prepared mentally for the trek ahead reminding myself to drive cautiously,  approach intersections a bit slower than normal, pump my brakes if I started to slide and to make sure I looked twice at every car around me before proceeding into an intersection.

I still knew, however, that despite all of my caution it was going to be “the other guy” I had to be mindful of… the guy who would make no mental driving precautions, who would approach every intersection as if the pavement was bare, who would tailgate me and perhaps even try to pass me on a two lane street if he perceived I was driving too slowly.

Not surprisingly, I saw “this guy” on my travels several times. I also watched cars sliding through intersections, overtaking in the passing lane at far too great a speed for the road conditions and believe it or not I even witnessed a young impatient driver perform a U-turn in front of me when the traffic in the opposite lane was not moving fast enough for him.

The car radio announcer stated by 8:30am there were already 50 collisions in Metro Halifax. Fifty! Sounded like a lot. It amazes me how so many drivers are aggressive, take so few precautions and take unnecessary risks in the worst weather conditions.

When I arrived at work I looked up some statistics on-line and was surprised to see that in 2010 only 30% of collisions happened in Canada on snowy or icy roads with this article.  This statistic seemed quite low to me. The same article advised that in 2010 there were 3500 collisions where loose snow or slush was reported to be present, heavy snow was reported to be falling in 1500 collisions and in over 1400 collisions weather conditions were cited as the main factor. Perhaps the collision statistic was low as many people choose not drive in poor weather conditions.

I thought about how many of the 3500 reported weather collisions could have been prevented and what tips there were to make that happen. A Transport Canada article was located which advised that the top 10 tips for preventing driving problems and collisions are:

  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.

After my experience driving to work I thought I could add to this list some common sense practice such as defrost your windows completely before driving your car, drive with some patience and don’t do a U-turn in traffic with wet snow falling!

In the end so many collisions can be easily prevented by driving cautiously, driving alertly and most importantly driving patiently.

It only takes a brief moment to change a life forever.

Only four more months until Spring!


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