Frosted windshields in the morning in Northwest B.C. signal it is time for drivers to be prepared for and adjust to potentially treacherous driving conditions. (Thom Barker photo)

Shift in weather signals time to shift to winter driving behaviours

Shift Into Winter campaign launches this month

The weather has shifted and drivers should be shifting as well.

The 14th annual Shift into Winter campaign, supported by the Winter Driving Safety Alliance and managed by Road Safety at Work (RSAW), officially launched this month.

Rain combined with cold overnight temperatures can make driving in Prince Rupert particularly dangerous.

“No matter how much experience you have, driving in snow, rain, fog, or icy conditions can be treacherous in Rupert and around the coast,” says campaign spokesperson Trace Acres, program director for RSAW.

The average number of casualty crashes due to driving too fast for the conditions more than doubles from fall to early winter, according to police statistics. But most crashes are preventable.

The Shift into Winter program aims to reduce the number of winter-related crashes, injuries, and deaths on B.C. roads.

“The best way to help keep yourself and your passengers safe is to start preparing for winter now and plan ahead,” Acres says. “Waiting until the first storm hits is too late.”

Preparation includes installing winter tires (required by law), adjusting driver attitudes, and refreshing memories about safe winter driving practices.

B.C. law requires drivers to obey winter tire and chain signs throughout the province from October 1 to March 31. For select highways, including mountain passes and rural routes in high snowfall areas (including Hwy 16 between Terrace and Prince Rupert and particularly Rainbow Pass), the requirement extends until April 30.

Shift into Winter recommends using four matching tires displaying the three-peaked mountain/snowflake symbol with at least 3.5 mm of tread. They offer the best traction for faster stopping time and shorter stopping distance in cold temperatures, snow, rain, and on ice. Tires with the M+S (Mud and Snow) symbol also meet B.C.’s requirement.

Acres says drivers need to be proactive when it comes to their safety – starting with a shift in their attitude.

“The majority of drivers are confident in their own abilities and are quick to blame other drivers as the reason why driving is a dangerous activity,” says Acres. Yet every driver can make an error, such as not turning on headlights during heavy rain or low light, that can cause a crash.

An RSAW survey in 2021 of people who drive for work found that only 38 per cent of respondents believed driving above the posted speed limit is extremely dangerous when weather is foul. Yet driving too fast for conditions is one of the main contributing factors in vehicle crashes in B.C.

Only 19 per cent said it’s extremely dangerous to drive without winter tires, chains, or other traction devices when it’s not snowing or icy. Yet wet roads and poor visibility can be a lethal combination for drivers.

“Driving in winter conditions is a risk every single time you get behind the wheel,” says Acres. “We all need to understand that and do our part to improve our winter driving behaviours and practices.”

Shift into Winter has a comprehensive collection of tools and tips on its website shiftintowinter.ca.

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