Weatherwise… Be Prepared
Have you ever driven up to an intersection on a frosty morning and applied the brakes only to find that a thin sheet of ice on the road has caught you off guard and led to a temporary loss of control of your vehicle?
Almost every Canadian driver has had at least one experience of failing to adjust driving behaviour to the change in the seasons. Every season presents different conditions that affect the way one should drive, and winter driving is one of our biggest challenges.
Canada Safety Council (CSC) is bringing awareness to the importance of preparing for safe winter driving. This includes maintaining your vehicle for optimum performance, equipping it with necessary safety items and adjusting driving habits consistent with the challenging conditions.
Maintaining your Vehicle
CSC recommends you start in the fall to prepare your vehicle for winter weather. You need a complete car engine tune-up. All systems should be checked: exhaust, fuel and cooling systems. Brakes, car batteries, tires and windshield wipers are all especially important to check before venturing out.
Brakes must be in perfect condition as they are crucial for safe winter driving. Have the brake linings and equalization checked. Read your car owner’s manual for proper use of new technologies such as Antilock Braking Systems (ABS), traction control and the new option of Electronic Stability Control (ESC).
Car batteries have added strain during these cold months. Make sure that the condition of the battery is adequate and it does not need to be replaced.
Tires must have the proper pressure. Make sure that your four snow tires are for Canadian winters, look for a snowflake-inside-mountains symbol on the tire sidewalls. In Quebec as of December 15th all vehicles must have winter tires installed, and they must be kept on until March 15th.
Windshields and wipers play a crucial role in properly scrutinizing the road ahead. Take the time to clear the snow and ice off all windows before driving and be sure that the defroster is working efficiently. Replace worn wipers and have plenty of wiper fluid good for temperatures of -35°C.or below. Remember that 95 percent of the information you need to drive safely comes through your eyes.
Equip your Vehicle
Remember to have some basic equipment on hand to ensure safe driving and to your ability to get back on the road if you get stuck in the snow or ice. This equipment would include: ice scraper and brush, shovel, gritty substance such as sand or kitty litter, road flares, jumper cables, flashlight, gasoline antifreeze and extra washer fluid with anti-freeze solvent. Of course you should also have a spare tire, wheel wrench and tire jack. Survival gear such as warm blankets, fresh water, matches, first aid kit, and a well-charged cell phone are important to have available in the car at all times.
Adjusting Driver Habits
The safest scenario for motorists always lies in preventing a collision in the first place. When weather presents challenging conditions such as a winter storm that minimizes the view of the road ahead or early morning ice patches that are undetectable, CSC asks motorists to take more time driving to their destination. Speed is the Achilles’ heel of safe driving. You may not be able to control the weather and road conditions but you can control the speed at which you drive. Leaving plenty of buffer room between your car and the car you are following can also make the difference between having a collision or not.
Other driver-behaviour that favours a safe outing includes wearing your seatbelts properly, keeping distractions to a minimum and be “weatherwise” … be prepared.
For National Safe Driving Week, CSC is offering a poster and an informational pamphlet entitled: Weatherwise… Be Prepared. Share this valuable information with your family, friends and staff. For more detailed advice on car maintenance, safety items and equipment to have on hand and tips on safe winter driving, please refer to:
New Technology Keeps Drivers Safe: Electronic Stability Control
Electronic Stability Control (ESC) has the potential to significantly reduce single vehicle road crashes. The US and Canada will soon mandate ESC in motor vehicles. This new technology, which is already in some cars, will be mandated in Canada by 2012. Look or ask for this new technology on your next vehicle purchase.
Approximately 48 per cent of serious road crashes in Canada are the result of loss of control. Studies show that Electronic Stability Control (ESC) could reduce these by 20 to 40 per cent. ESC is a safety technology that helps drivers avoid crashes by reducing the likelihood of skidding.
ESC sensors compare the direction of the steering wheel to the direction the vehicle is going, more than 20 times per second. When they are not the same, and the car begins to skid out of control, ESC applies the brakes to correct oversteer (when the back of the vehicle slides out) or understeer (when the vehicle loses traction at the front). ESC can also reduce engine power to prevent wheel spin when the road is slippery. ESC helps bring the vehicle back under control and heading in the right direction.