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Snow is a Gamechanger

The word ‘gamechanger’ is on the Lake Superior State University 2009 Banished Words List as a cliché that, “gets overused in the news media, political arenas and in business.” Another problem is its common misuse in reference to an “event”. Properly used a gamechanger is a person with the ability to change the game by being a good improviser who focuses not on outcomes but on the process.

Despite this analysis, however, it remains apt for describing the effects of snow (the event) on driving in the Lower Mainland and the appropriate response by Lower Mainland drivers. Simply put, snow is a gamechanger for driving and drivers need to become game changers on the road.

Snow is condensed ice crystals that attach to form snowflakes and fall from layered clouds that are below 0 degrees Celsius in temperature. The various descriptions of snow—fluffy, powdery, sticky, etc.—related to the ratio of snowfall to water content. The first driver on a snow-covered roadway has to push through the accumulation. In freezing temperatures, the compacted snow becomes slippery ice for the drivers that follow.

Even with the best equipment available for maximizing traction—snow tires or tires wrapped in chains—different driving skills are needed. Snow is a gamechanger because it makes roads slippery, mucky, sticky, lumpy and unpredictable; because, like rain, it impairs visibility; because many Lower Mainlanders do not properly equip their vehicles with suitable tires or chains; and because Lower Mainland drivers are relatively inexperienced in driving in snow—understandable because snow accumulation happens infrequently.

These considerations undoubtedly prompted many Lower Mainlanders, wisely, to stay off the roads even when it meant foregoing traditional seasonal festivities. Others tried to battle the conditions but were foiled. When the police are issuing warnings about staying off the roads, as they did from time to time during the past holiday season, all drivers are well advised to pay heed.

Here are a few key tips for driving on snow and ice:

1. To maximize visibility, clean the snow off your vehicle: off the roof, off all the windows, off the hood and the trunk and off the front and backlights. Make sure the windshield washer system works and is full of an anti-icing fluid. Set the air circulation so that the windows remain clear of condensation and frost.

2. Subject to the instructions in the vehicle owner’s manual, the following braking techniques are generally approved:

• If you have an ABS brake equipped vehicle, modify your ABS technique on ice and snow by easing up slightly on the pedal until pulsing happens only once a second.

• For non-ABS vehicles, push the brake pedal hard until the wheels stop rolling, then immediately release the brake enough to allow the wheels to start turning again. Repeat this sequence rapidly.

3. Bridge and intersection surfaces are particularly prone to black ice or glare ice formation. Be extra watchful and cautious.


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