January 17, 2012 – According to an ICBC survey conducted in December, seven out of 10 drivers admit to feeling less safe or more frustrated on the roads when winter conditions hit and this is reflected in a spike in crashes at this time of the year. Over the past five years, there have been on average more than 24,000 crashes during the month of January making it one of the highest months for crashes on B.C. roads.
On a positive note, ICBC’s winter driving survey showed that drivers are doing what they can to prepare their vehicles for the challenging road conditions. Eight in 10 drivers topped up their water fluid to help to avoid freezing, while seven in 10 drivers checked their tire pressure – tires deflate more quickly in cold weather. A majority of the drivers said they install winter tires on their vehicle or keep an emergency kit in the car.
When thinking about vehicle maintenance at this time of year, drivers should also turn off their cruise control, use low-beam lights and keep their gas tank at least half-full.
Of course, adapting our behaviour behind the wheel is just as important. Nearly all drivers surveyed said they follow the two key rules of driving in winter conditions – increasing their following distance and driving slower. The latter is vital – speed limits are set for ideal conditions and conditions right now are far from ideal.
Slowing down gives you more time to see the road ahead and to anticipate potential hazards. As the snow begins to melt during warmer daytime hours, black ice becomes a potential hazard. It’s virtually impossible to see ahead of time, and that’s why it’s so important to slow down and keep your distance – so you can see how the vehicles around you are moving on the road.
While it can be a natural reaction to slam on the brakes, the best thing you can do if you do encounter black ice is to try to slow your vehicle down to regain traction by easing off the accelerator. If you need to use the brake, be aware of the differences between using standard and anti-lock brakes (ABS). For standard brakes, pump them gently; for ABS, apply steady pressure and you’ll feel the brakes pulse (this is normal).
The majority of B.C. drivers we surveyed choose to wait until the morning before planning their commute. Four out of 10 B.C. drivers still choose to drive to work as they normally would. A smarter decision is to leave a little later than planned to allow crews to clear the roads or to consider working from home, if these are viable options. Other options to consider are taking public transport – let the experts handle the commute – or carpool with someone who is experienced at driving in the snow and has a vehicle prepared for the conditions.
Whatever decision you make, the best thing you can do is to learn as much as you can about the road conditions you may encounter on your drive. Drivebc.ca is a great resource for checking real-time road conditions across the province and will also have up-to-the-minute alerts on any possible road closures.
ICBC serves 3.2 million customers in the province of British Columbia, Canada. ICBC licenses and insures drivers and vehicles across the province through its service centres, plus a network of more than 900 independent brokers and government agent offices. Claims customers are served through local offices and an award-winning Dial-a-Claim call centre. ICBC’s road safety investments help create safer roads, lead to fewer crashes, and help keep rates stable. To find out more, visit icbc.com.