Staying cool and calm during winter driving

Winter weather and poor driving conditions go together like a toque and mittens, so it should be no surprise that when the snow falls, accidents happen on Calgary streets.

Despite the constant stream of news about collisions in Calgary, police statistics show that from 2007-2011, Calgary has seen a decrease in the number of reportable collisions.

Const. Jim Lebedeff, who works in the Traffic Education unit of the Calgary Police Service, says that this drop can be attributed to people being “more prepared.”

“One of the biggest things [for preventing collisions] is preparing yourself,” Lebedeff said in a recent interview.

By checking the weather before leaving home, drivers get a better idea of what  they will be facing on their commute.

This is especially important here since weather in Calgary can change rapidly, causing extreme changes in road conditions.

“If you know it’s going to be lousy, give yourself extra time to get to your destination,” said Lebedeff.

By waking up 15 minutes earlier, you can give yourself extra time to better handle the road conditions and be courteous to other drivers.

Shelby Collett, a full-time student and a part-time employee, spends about an hour a day on some of Calgary’s busiest roads.

She has been in two accidents, one in 2010 and one in 2011, that were both reported to the police because of damage.

“Bad weather definitely contributed to my accidents,” Collett said.

“The best piece of advice is just go slow, and leave a bit early in the morning. You’re going to regret getting into an accident a lot more than being a few minutes late for work,” Collett said.

Being prepared is one of the best things a driver can do, especially in winter conditions, but Lebedeff said patience behind the wheel is just as important.

“Be patient and be courteous,” Lebedeff said. “Not everyone is as good of a driver as you are, so you need to account for that.”

Lebedeff used the ‘three second rule’ example, where you should be at least three or four seconds behind the vehicle in front of you, and recommends doubling that time for winter.

Collett agreed, saying that drivers “have to be way more aware of other drivers when the weather is bad outside,” because you don’t know how experienced they are.

“Adjust your driving for the conditions of the road,” Lebedeff recommended, “don’t drive beyond your comfort zone.”

If that means going slower than the speed limit, it is perfectly acceptable for safety reasons.

Making sure your car is in good condition before driving in bad weather also helps.

By ensuring you have winter tires, windshield washer fluid, a snow-free car and visible headlights, taillights and signal lights you can make the roads safer for yourself and other drivers.

Test your windshield wipers before driving, walk around your car and examine the weather before you start driving so are prepared.

“Often I’m on patrol and I see vehicles where just the wipers are going, and maybe the side windows are clear and that’s not good enough,” Lebedeff said.

Failure to clear windows is a ticketable offence and subject to a fine of up to $115, which can be enforced if officers feel the need.

“I’m hoping that Calgarians are listening and paying attention to this friendly advice,” Lebedeff said.

That’s the way to avoid becoming a winter driving statistic.

About Rebecca Friesen 9 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Rebecca Friesen worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2012-2013 academic year.