Winter Driving Safety Begins With You
Winter has officially arrived, although motorists have already had a preview of the type of driving conditions we can expect for the next few months.
So far, Ontario drivers have dealt with freezing rain and snow, and it will only get worse the deeper into winter we get. But while the cold weather brings increased driving dangers, there are precautions and winter driving safety tips you could and should take to stay safe on our roads this winter.
It should come as no surprise that hundreds of drivers and passengers die on icy or snowy roads in Canada each year. Studies show that adverse road conditions during winter months contribute to about 12 per cent of traffic injuries and fatalities each year. We are therefore now in the prime season for collisions. According to the RCMP, nearly 30 per cent of accidents reported to the National Collision Database took place on wet, snowy or icy roads, with one-third occurring in November, December, January and February.
According to the RCMP, single-vehicle collisions are most common in early winter while Canadian insurers report a 49 per cent increase in collision-related claims in December and January.
Preparation is the key
People don’t plan to fail but many times they fail to plan. Lack of preparation can increase the likelihood of an accident in winter. However, there are many common-sense tips that can help keep you safe in the coming months, and it all starts with your vehicle.
How do you get ready for safe winter driving? Do you have snow tires or winter tires? All-season tires are good but will not give you the traction of snow tires when temperatures fall below 7 C. Snow tires may not only save you from an accident, but insurance companies offer a policy discount for drivers who switch to them.
Is your vehicle in good working condition? Check your battery and keep the gas tank topped up. Make sure your phone is charged (but put it away while driving). Being stranded in frigid temperatures can be as dangerous as being in an accident.
Clear your car of any snow and ice before setting out. It may be the last thing you want to do when it is cold outside, but poor visibility can contribute to a collision. Ensure your wiper blades are not worn and that you have windshield washer fluid. Again, having a clear view of the road ahead cannot be understated and is a big part of winter road safety.
If highways are slippery, avoid using cruise control. You need to stay alert and ready to brake. Before you hit the road, check the weather conditions for your destination. You can also find out about road conditions by calling 511, the Ministry of Transportation’s traveller information hotline.
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) recommend carrying the following in your vehicle in case of an emergency:
- an ice scraper with snow brush, sand or road salt and a small shovel;
- booster cables, road flares, fuel line anti-freeze and tow rope;
- extra clothing and footwear, a blanket, non-perishable food, matches and a candle; and
- a flashlight, first aid kit, and a small tool kit.
Drive according to road conditions
Speeding exacerbates your chance of being in an accident at any time of year. The OPP reported earlier this year that 315 people died in traffic accidents in 2021, with excessive speed being the leading cause. In fact, speed-related deaths on provincial roads reached a 10-year high in 2021 with 81 fatalities.
Police say motorists should be ready to adjust to unfavourable driving conditions no matter the season, and offer the following winter driving tips:
- be alert and well-rested when getting behind the wheel. Avoid distractions such as your cell phone; your complete focus should be on driving;
- keep a safe distance from the car ahead of you. This is especially important when roads are icy or snow-covered;
- reduce your speed in poor weather conditions;
- give yourself extra time to get where you are going or postpone or cancel your trip in extreme weather conditions;
- keep a close eye on the road ahead. If asphalt is shiny and black it could be ice covered;
- give large trucks and snowplows wide berth;
- quick acceleration, hard braking or a sudden, jerking movement of the steering wheel can cause you to skid. If that happens, take your foot off the brake and steer in the direction you want to go. However, be careful not to steer too far or the car could spin; and
- if driving becomes too risky, find a safe place to pull over and wait until conditions improve.
Tis the season for holiday get-togethers
The holiday season has arrived and there is a renewed focus on the dangers of impaired driving. Sadly, it is a year-round problem that remains the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada, according to the Department of Justice.
Consuming alcohol or cannabis in even small amounts can impair your ability to drive; more so if you are also taking a prescribed medication that interacts poorly with cannabis or alcohol. Combine that with the hazards winter brings and you could be inviting tragic results.
If you drive to an event that includes consuming alcohol or cannabis, leave your car parked and arrange for a taxi or Uber if you do not have a designated driver. Or consider public transit. Paying for a cab ride is far better than the penalties that come with impaired driving. According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, you face an immediate licence suspension, fines or even jail time if you fail a breathalyzer test or refuse to provide a breath sample. A conviction could cost you $23,000 or more.
If you are convicted of impaired driving that causes death, you face imprisonment for life.
Unfortunately, because impaired driving remains a problem, you may encounter a driver who is a danger to themselves or others while you are on the road. Some telltale signs of an impaired driver are a vehicle that drifts in and out of traffic, strikes a curb or other vehicles, or drives on the wrong side of the road.
If you suspect impaired driving, do not attempt to pass or stop the vehicle. Keep a safe distance and try to get details about the car, such as the make, model, colour and licence plate number. Use a hands-free device, and call 911. Pull over to make the call if you do not have a hands-free device. If you have been involved in an accident with a suspected impaired driver, call 911.
Accidents happen and we can help
Unfortunately, no matter how safe you drive, there is no guarantee you will be able to avoid an accident. If you have been involved in a collision and you have not been injured, try to get licence and insurance information from the other driver. Start collecting evidence. Take photos of the scene, including any damage to the vehicles involved, the location of the cars in relation to one another, road signs and traffic signals and any other relevant details. If possible, move the vehicles to a safe location. Call for help if someone has been hurt.
At Gluckstein Lawyers, we want you to stay safe this winter. However, if you have been hurt in an accident, our team of experienced personal injury lawyers is ready to help you. Contact us so we can plan your next steps. The initial meeting is free and without obligation on your part, and our personal injury law firm never charge legal fees until your claim is settled.
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