This past November brought a lot of difficult weather and road conditions — torrential rains, followed by snow and ice, followed by a road surface mixture of slush, salt, sand, and dirt. Many drivers suddenly found themselves performing unusual maneuvers and applying rarely-practiced skills like recovering from hydroplaning, steering out of skids, braking to stop a downhill slide, and getting unstuck from an ice-packed road surface.
And this wasn’t all. In hilly residential areas, many people took the precaution of parking their vehicles on the street instead of in their driveway or garage. This caused the passageway down streets to narrow, with some vehicles parked far out from snow-covered curbs. Faced with an oncoming car, there was often no room to maneuver, and no traction for pulling over. A driver needed patience, courtesy and good problem solving skills. Many found that backing up on ice is particularly challenging.
It was dark for most of the morning and evening rush hours. As if driving in darkness weren’t enough of a challenge, on wet or snowy or ice covered roads, the speed needed to travel at in order NOT to overdrive the area of illumination provided by the headlights, had to be carefully considered
Widespread power outages required application of the courtesy “four-way stop procedure” at light-controlled intersections, many of which were multi-lane and high-volume. The huge number of road obstructions from downed trees and wires, multi-car pile-ups and single car mess-ups meant that repair crews and emergency response teams were in some cases over-whelmed. As if just keeping going weren’t challenging enough, a driver needed to respond appropriately to permit the safe passage emergency vehicles with sirens blaring.
It’s still fall; we’re just on the verge of winter. The weather has returned to normal wet and mild conditions, but we could still see more problems with freezing conditions. Here are some really useful guidelines from ICBC’s Road Sense for Drivers:
- Posted speed limits are designed for ideal road conditions; slow down when driving on snow, ice, slush or rain.
- Overpasses and bridges freeze before other pavement. Use caution at zero degrees and watch for black ice.
- Allow three times the normal following distance to stop on wet or slick surfaces.
- Avoid sudden moves by anticipating turns or lane changes.
- Be familiar with the vehicle’s braking system and how it operates.
- Low beams are more effective than high beams in fog or heavy snow conditions.
- Check tire pressure regularly.
- Be cautious using four-wheel drive. Often it does not enhance braking or steering on slippery roads.
- If you have a new vehicle, the owner’s manual may have some important operating suggestions regarding controllability.
- When purchasing official winter tires, look for the symbol of a snow flake imposed on a symbol of a mountain.
Also, in the worst of conditions, consider whether the trip is really necessary.