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As winter and the looming Christmas season starts to take center stage, this is the time of year when many of us begin thinking about visiting family and loved ones. However, the extreme weather of recent weeks and its devastating impact on the road and highway system in areas of the province underlines the need to be cognizant of closures, travel restrictions and current conditions.

As I prepare this column, the Coquihalla Highway which is a preferred route for many travelers and primary commercial trucking route to reach the Interior is not an option for the foreseeable future because of flood damage and significant damage that have occurred from the BC flood event of November 13–16. Likewise, at this time the Hope Princeton Highway (#3) is open for essential traffic only and many localized closures or restrictions also remain in place along routes.

If you are contemplating a road trip, your first visits should be to and to access the most current source of highway conditions, status of various routes, highway cameras and route incidents. The teams at the BC Ministry of Transportation do a superb job in providing these updates to keep motorists safe and I commend them.

For those who will be able to make a trek, this year serves as a stark reminder of the potential for unpredictable weather – and that means exercising caution and driving at a conservative speed based on the weather and road conditions

Winter tires are a key component of keeping yourself and others safe on icy and snowy roads. Their importance cannot be overstated, as they’re required on most routes in British Columbia between October 1 to April 30. Snow tires with a snowflake symbol are the preferred choice over all terrain or all-season tires (M&S symbol), as the latter are more likely to slide on the road since they lose elasticity and grip at temperatures below 7°C, according to Transport Canada.

Being seen is also a key priority, especially during the dark, wintery days. While newer models have daytime running lights, those who may drive older vehicles should turn their lights on manually, in order to be easily seen.

Winter driving generally demands more concentration and care from drivers, so be sure to use slow maneuvers, refrain from braking quickly, and use a gentle foot on that accelerator pedal. Driving slowly is one of the smartest things you can do, since by doing so you reduce your risks of an incident, while also providing yourself more time to react in case something does occur. An added bonus conserving fuel and extending battery range.

Keeping an emergency roadside kit with flares, flashlight and other tools – in addition to water and warm clothing – is always a good idea. There’s plenty that you can add to your emergency kit, from jumper cables, a folding shovel, tire puncture seal to a first aid kit and more.

By following these few simple steps, you can help keep everyone safe on the wintery roads this year.

Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC. You can email him at [email protected]