Do you drive the same speed all year round? Maybe you shouldn’t.
In many parts of the province, winter means freezing temperatures that dip below -20 Celsius and over a foot of snow packed on the side of the road. Add low driving visibility and slippery road conditions and you’ll see how extremely dangerous winter driving can be.
The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) is partnering with Argo Road Maintenance and the local RCMP in launching the “Speed Relative to Conditions” campaign that aims to alert drivers on the importance of adjusting their speed for road safety. The campaign runs until the end of November.
A majority of crashes between October and December are caused by people who drive too fast for the current road conditions, said Ingrid Brakop, ICBC’s road safety coordinator.
Brakop said they’ll be doing road checks to encourage drivers to slow down and provide tips on winter driving.
While some drivers simply enjoy the exhilaration from a fast-moving vehicle, others have gotten into the bad habit of speeding because of lack of planning. It’s important to allow plenty of time to get to your destination especially in the winter when road conditions can be unpredictable. Driving too fast on a slick road is a disaster waiting to happen.
“Speed limits are designed for ideal road conditions. And ideal road conditions are typically dry and bare,” said Brakop. With snow, rain or sleet, it’s advisable to slow down in order to maintain control of your vehicle, she said. Brakop pointed out that while some drivers blame the road conditions for crashes, it’s also up to drivers to take responsibility for their speed. “The maintenance company does the best they can with the tools they’ve been given (to keep the roads safe).”
Part of the preparation includes investing in proper winter tires. Getting the proper tires is like playing soccer, said Brakop. “If you’re wearing runners, you’re not going to have as much traction as you have when you’re wearing cleats,” she explained.
Choosing winter tires that suit your needs depend on several factors. Do you do a lot of city or highway driving? How often do you take your vehicle off-road? What kind of weather and how much snow do you usually get in the winter?
While all-season tires don’t fare well below 10 degrees Celsius, the high density rubber compound used in winter tires keep the tires flexible even in freezing temperatures. Compared to all-season tires, winter tires also have more siping, those slits on the tire tread that improve traction. This means improved stopping distances and better vehicle handling.
“If you go on a lot of highway driving and if you don’t take your vehicle on gravel roads, then you’ll probably need an ice radial,” said Steve Dunlop, manager of KalTire’s downtown branch in Kamloops.
“A snow tire will come handy if you’re doing a lot of driving on snow itself. Up and down from Sun Peaks, it’s the ice you have to worry about,” he added. Tread design matters, he added. While an arrowhead design helps with lateral stability, a square block tread is great for starting and stopping.
Here’s an easy way to check your tire depth. Take a toonie and stick it on an old tire. “If the gold is fully exposed, then you need new tires,” said Brakop. Brakop also reminds people that the RCMP have the authority to make people turn around when they’re driving up a mountain road without proper winter tires or chains.
So slow down, plan ahead and enjoy a safe driving season this winter.