Two BC cabinet members, a WorkSafeBC vice-president and an RCMP representative joined forces on the steps of the Legislature in Victoria on October 2 to launch the Shift into Winter campaign, which reminds drivers that winter is coming and they need to get ready now to avoid being caught by surprise the way many were last year.
Driving in winter is not business as usual as winter brings its own set of driving challenges. Reduced traction, unpredictable weather, cold temperatures and compromised visibility increase the likelihood of a serious motor vehicle incident.
Last winter’s extreme conditions contributed to a 10 percent increase in motor-vehicle casualty crashes in B.C. between October and December, where driving too fast for the conditions was a contributing factor. This is a 10 per cent increase from 2015, when 570 casualty crashes occurred, as compared to 626 in 20161 (police-attended crashes, 2012–2016).
While last year’s weather was unusual for some parts of the province, on average, each year in British Columbia the number of casualty crashes due to driving too fast for conditions doubles in December compared to October. Between 2012 and 2016, an average of more than 260 casualty crashes occurred in December compared to approximately 130 in October (police-attended crashes, 2012-2016).
For those who drive for work, October, November and December are the most dangerous months. Almost 30 per cent of all work-related crashes resulting in injury and time-loss claims occur during these three months.
In December 2016 alone, WorkSafeBC claims from crashes that resulted in injuries and lost time from work were 38 per cent higher than in December 2015.
Depending on where you drive in the province, winter road conditions vary, from snow and ice in the north and on high mountain passes, to rain and fog commonly found in the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island. Drivers need to prepare for the possibility of changing road and weather conditions, and adapt.
Between October 1 and March 31, most B.C. highways require passenger vehicles to have winter tires (three-peaked mountain and snowflake, or mud and snow) and commercial vehicles to carry chains. The Winter Driving Safety Alliance advises all drivers to prepare now to stay safe on the roads this winter:
- Don’t go — If conditions are bad, postpone your trip if possible.
- Plan your trip — If you have to travel, check road and weather conditions and select the safest route. Give yourself extra time to get to your destination to avoid rushing, and have an emergency plan if you get stuck.
- Prepare your vehicle — Install a set of four matched winter tires and keep an emergency kit in your vehicle. Every year, be sure to give your vehicle a pre-season maintenance check-up.
- Slow down and drive to the conditions — Even the most confident and seasoned drivers are at risk in hazardous road conditions. Slow down to match road conditions and maintain a safe following distance, at least four seconds, between you and the vehicle ahead.
- For employers and supervisors — The Winter Driving Safety online course and Toolkit on the Shift Into Winter website provides useful information for planning, implementing and monitoring a winter-driving safety program.
For more information about what you can do to stay safe while driving this winter, visit ShiftIntoWinter.ca.
1 Police Traffic Accident Systems Data