Driving on the highways of BC is more unique than any other region in Canada, and this is especially true in the winter season. While many would prefer to stay off of the ice and snow-caked roads, December is a peak time for travel, and so everywhere from Crowsnest to the Coquihalla Highway will be lined with vehicles. As the solstice is days away, now is the time to update this past list of winter driving tips so that you, your passengers, and others on the road enjoy the wonderland in safety and comfort.
5 Best Ways to Prepare for Winter Driving on British Columbia Roads and Highways
1. Winterize Your Ride
Kicking your tires to check for pressure doesn’t cut it when preparing to hit the highway. Your vehicle needs to be winterized from front bumper to back fender. What exactly is included in this process? Run through the following checklist and you’ll be off to a great start:
- Install winter wipers that can manage heavy snowfall on the windshield.
- Mount winter tires as all-season tires don’t have the traction needed for the freezing temperatures of higher BC highway elevations.
- Fill washer fluid and keep a full container in the trunk.
- Pack a winter safety kit (w/blankets, extra clothing, an ice scraper, a small shovel, mechanic gloves, flares, jumper cables, food, bottled water, and a flashlight).
- Increase your tire pressure, because for every 5-degree C drop in temperature, your tire air pressure decreases 1 pound per square inch. Most automobile manufacturer’s owner’s manuals recommend operating winter tires at 3-5 psi higher than normal.
- Start your trip with a full tank of gas, even if you anticipate stopping shortly along the way for a fill-up.
- Check your rear window defroster to make sure it is operating efficiently.
- Have your vehicle serviced by a mechanic before a long winter road trip.
2. Never (Ever) Tailgate in the Winter
There are many nervous drivers on the highway at this time of the year. They will be driving cautiously and much slower than you may be accustomed to. If there is no safe way to pass them, then be patient and fall back. Riding their tail will only stress them out further and can increase the risk of an accident. In addition, if they do need to make a sudden stop, your tailgating will likely result in a fender bender. In the winter, that age old two-second rule looks more like three to five seconds depending on how rough the conditions are.
To help keep your patience in check (and to prevent the urge to tailgate) give yourself some extra time to reach your destination. For example, a drive from Vancouver to Kelowna that typically takes four hours in the summer, should be afforded at least six or seven hours of travel time in the winter.
3. Heed the Advice for Skidding on Ice
The biggest concern for most people when driving in the winter, is the impending threat of black ice and skidding out of control. If you drive over an ice patch and your automobile begins to skid, focus your vision on the road, ease off of the accelerator, and steer smoothly in the direction of the skid. This is what is known as “turning into the slide”. Resist the urge to brake, as this will only make matters worse. You may need to repeat this maneuver a few times until you regain control, so remain calm and your vehicle, with your composed assistance, will correct itself.
4. Watch for Winter Wildlife
BC wildlife comes down from the mountain in the winter in search of food. Deer are the biggest animal threat to BC drivers through the season, and are spotted all over the highways of the province. Keep your eyes peeled for deer when driving in rural areas and highways alike, noting signs that warn of their presence. Deer are more likely to come out at dawn and dusk so exercise more caution during these times of the day. When driving in the dark of winter, keep your eye on the distant road and look for the glow of their eyes so that you can slow down and prepare to avoid them. Continue to drive slowly as you pass them as they may dart in front of your vehicle without a moment’s notice. And while the verdict is out on the effectiveness of a deer whistle, it certainly does not hurt to have one on your car. Even if it’s just 1% effective it could be that one time out of a hundred that makes the difference you need.
5. Remove All Distractions from the Equation
Distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents in BC, all year long. The dangers of this are compounded in the winter, when road conditions become more hazardous. The best way to keep safe on the highway this season, is to focus and drive defensively, removing all potential for distraction. It should go without saying that you should not snack, drink, adjust auto-infotainment settings, text, or even make hands-free phone calls while operating the vehicle. If you must, find a safe rest stop to pull over and attend to your business. Siri isn’t the only “person” you should avoid conversing with, as getting deeply involved in passenger discussions is one of the prime unanticipated driver distractions that you need to be aware of, before you buckle up and go. Focus on the road, and only the road, especially at this otherwise most wonderful time of the year.
Last but not least, make sure that you are fully insured for all that can occur on the winter roads of British Columbia. Have an independent broker at Park Insurance conduct an audit of your current automobile insurance policy. Contact us today, before the next snowfall.