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A Change of (Driving) Season

A Change of (Driving) Season

October 5, 2018

By Blair Qualey
Published by Postmedia, Oct 5, 2018

It doesn’t seem possible – but summer is now behind us and many areas of the province will soon enter some of the most challenging driving conditions of the year.

Above all else, the onus is on drivers to be prepared for a variety of driving conditions: in snow, packed snow, ice and heavy rain – by exercising caution, driving at a reasonable speed based on road and weather conditions and ensuring your vehicle is equipped with appropriate tires.

A 2017 survey conducted by ICBC indicated serious crashes increased by 10 per cent the year previous, due in large part to drivers simply going too fast for road conditions. In the North Central region of the province, accidents in which people are injured or killed more than double each year as the weather worsens throughout the fall.

It’s particularly important to be cautious and take extra time if you are driving a route in which there are rapid changes in elevation – because those can be especially unpredictable during the fall and winter months. A number of BC highways have high mountain passes in which drivers are likely to encounter winter weather starting as early as October. You may start a trip in the sunshine, but later face stretches of slush, ice, snow or compact snow. Before embarking on a trip, motorists should also visit http://www.drivebc.ca to access the latest road conditions and view road cameras.

Having the proper tires cannot be emphasized enough. Equip your vehicle with proper snow tires (snowflake symbol) or winter/all season tires (M&S symbol). Switching out of your summer tires for something more weather-appropriate is not only logical and safe, but it’s mandatory in some parts of the province. From October 1st through March 31st, winter tire rules take effect and drivers are required to use winter tires on most BC highways.

Driving in the snow is a simple science – it’s all about friction and traction. Snow tires have a deeper tread to cut through the slush and snow, and snow tires are constructed from softer rubber to help with traction (especially below 7C). Lower temperatures in general affects the rubber in summer and all-season tires in a way that lowers traction. The rubber used for snow tires, on the other hand, stays soft and flexible in freezing temperatures in order to grip what’s underneath them. All season tires have reduced traction and stopping power below seven degrees Celsius, and do not offer reliable braking or cornering on ice or cold weather conditions. Compared to M+S tires, snow tires offer superior braking and cornering performance on wet and rough ice, soft and hard-packed snow, along with slush. It’s worth the investment for snow tires!

An important component of driving in the snow is knowing about how to use your vehicle and all its features. As an example, newer vehicle models may come with anti-lock braking systems (ABS). ABS brakes are meant to keep your wheels from locking up so that you can maintain control of your vehicle. In a slippery situation, remember to never pump on ABS brakes – this could de-activate the system. Instead, keep your foot firmly on the brake pedal and the system will automatically pump the brakes.

In general, winter driving requires a lot more concentration and care as well – use slow motions, refrain from braking quickly, and use a very soft foot on the accelerator pedal. Driving slower is one of the smartest things you can do.

Drivers who don’t slow down or adjust for conditions are always a top concern for others who are sharing the road. Both stopping and turning are actions that take a lot longer, so keep a longer follow distance and remember to slow down. If you’re driving a new car with electronic traction and stability control, ensure they are turned on in the winter.

An important reminder for every driver is having an emergency road side kit which includes: flares, a flashlight and a variety of tools – along with water and additional warm clothing that you may be thankful to have on hand in the event of an unfortunate circumstance.

If you’re in the market for winter car kit essentials, visit your local new car dealer – they’ll make sure you have what you need to shift into winter safely, before hitting the roads.

Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC. You can email him at bqualey@newcardealers.ca.

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