Drivesmart: Be prepared for trouble on winter roads

Before you head out this winter, ask yourself ‘Do I really need to make this trip?’

By Tim Schewe

I remember putting chains on my father’s tow truck and plowing snow with the front bumper at 30 mph to go and drag a hapless motorist back onto the highway.

I also remember my time in northern B.C. where one didn’t leave the driveway without a shovel, tow rope, extra winter clothing, tools and a collection of small spare parts at this time of year. Are you really ready for your next trip in winter conditions?

It’s easy to become complacent. We expect our highways to be open at all times and perfectly maintained, even under severe winter conditions. Sometimes this is not a realistic view and the first question that you should ask yourself is, do I really need to make this trip?

If the answer is yes, the next step in planning your journey might be a visit to DriveBC. The map view shows a variety of information using icons to indicate incidents and road conditions. Web cams let you look at current conditions in hundreds of locations around B.C.

Is your vehicle up to the trip? Shift Into Winter has some maintenance advice for you to consider.

Start out with a full tank of fuel or a fully charged battery. Keep them both topped up, especially if you are going to travel one of our mountain passes that have long distances between service facilities. It does not cost you more to travel on the top half of the tank and the reserve could become very important if you are stranded.

Carry equipment to get yourself out of trouble. Transport Canada has recommendations for what to include in your basic emergency kit.

Yes, I still carry booster cables, a first aid kit, tools, spares, flares, triangles, blanket, cell phone, ham radio and a shovel with me.

Remember that a functional cell phone without an active account or SIM card can still be used to call 911 if you have signal. Keep a 12 volt charger for it in the glovebox.

One bonus of being prepared is that you will also be able to provide help for others.

If you do get stuck, your first thought should be to keep the situation from becoming worse. Put out those warning devices far enough away to give other drivers time to see, think and react safely.

Your vehicle is shelter and you are likely better to stay with it until help arrives. If you run the engine to stay warm, insure that the exhaust outlets are clear to prevent fumes from entering the passenger compartment.

My final tip is that if you do travel, this is not the time to use cruise control. It’s a fair weather friend that you must only use when there is good traction.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.caFor more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

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