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Winter driving safety

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter Winter driving requires far more concentration, safe practices, and mental awareness than driving during the summer. Factors such as ice, snow and slush buildup, and decreased visibility mean the chances of a severe or even fatal accident are increased if a driver doesn’t take the necessary precautions. According to a news release issued by the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure on Nov. 21, currently, across the province, winter operations are in full swing, letting drivers know that the time for extra safety is now. “Approximately 550 pieces of winter maintenance equipment and 67 highway depots are involved in winter operations throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, helping ensure the safety of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians travelling provincial highways during the winter season. “Winter equipment operators take appropriate measures to improve the safety of highways. The crews have staggered start times, beginning at 4:30 a.m., and continue to operate until 10:00 p.m. as conditions require. “The Provincial Government wishes to remind the travelling public that as of December 1, overnight winter road operations occur on the 12 most travelled routes in the province as conditions warrant. These routes are listed in the backgrounder below. In the case of emergencies on the other provincial highways, staff are available to clear routes and escort emergency personnel after hours. “Everyone has a role to play in ensuring their safety and the safety of others. Drivers are reminded to slow down and drive to conditions. There are various tools available to support safe winter driving, and the motoring public is encouraged to make it a habit to use these tools before they drive on highways. These include:

  1. Reports on highway driving conditions and cameras on;

  2. Provincial plow tracker; and

  3. Weather warnings via Environment Canada forecasts. “Budget 2023 allocated an additional $4 million this year, as well as $25 million per year for the next five years, to renew the winter fleet in the province. A multi-year tender is also in place, and 44 new snow plows have been ordered. This winter, eight new heavy-duty single-axle trucks with plows and salters were purchased and added to the fleet to service a number of rural routes and 14 new loaders are also being procured for this winter. “We remain dedicated to helping ensure the safety of our travelling public throughout the winter season, and I commend the many equipment operators who serve the residents of our province each day of the season,” said John G. Abbott, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “When it comes to winter road maintenance, it is important to remember that these vehicles have to start and stop somewhere – they cannot be everywhere at once. It is important that we all use the tools available to us to be aware of driving conditions, slow down and allow for extra travelling time.” The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has numerous tips and tricks to help drivers be extra safe this winter. “An ordinary driver reacts to road situations. A good driver anticipates crises and avoids them. “Driving in winter weather —snow, ice, wet and cold — creates a great challenge for vehicles and drivers. Keeping the vehicle in good technical repair reduces the overall chances of any mishap or disaster while driving – particularly in winter weather. To prepare the vehicle for winter driving, give it a complete checkup. They also suggest a winter driving kit to help handle any emergency that could arise and such kits should include:

  4. Properly fitting tire chains.

  5. Bag of sand or salt (or kitty litter).

  6. Tow rope.

  7. Traction mats.

  8. Snow shovel.

  9. Snowbrush.

  10. Ice scraper.

  11. Booster cables.

  12. Warning devices such as reflective triangles, flares, or emergency lights.

  13. Fuel line de-icer (methanol, also called methyl alcohol or methyl hydrate).

  14. Extra windshield wiper fluid is appropriate for sub-freezing temperatures.

  15. Roll of paper towels.

  16. Flashlight and a portable flashing light (and extra batteries).

  17. Blankets.

  18. Extra clothing, including hat and wind-proof pants, and warm footwear. Consider bringing hand and foot warmers.

  19. First aid kit.

  20. Non-perishable snacks or other “emergency” food and water.

  21. Matches and emergency candles — only use with a window opened to prevent the build-up of carbon monoxide.

  22. Road maps.

  23. “Call Police” or other help signs or brightly coloured banners. The way a person drives in the winter is extremely important and they should be cognizant of the following :

  24. Buckle up before starting to drive. Keep the seat belt buckled at all times.

  25. SLOW DOWN! Posted speed limits are for ideal travel conditions. Driving at reduced speeds is the best precautionary measure against any misfortune while driving on slippery roads. “Black ice” is invisible.

  26. Be alert. Black ice will make a road look like shiny new asphalt. The pavement should look grey-white in winter.

  27. Do not use cruise control. Winter driving requires the driver to be in full control at all times.

  28. Reduce speed while approaching intersections covered with ice or snow.

  29. Allow for extra travelling time or delay a trip if the weather is inclement.

  30. Drive with low-beam headlights on. Not only are they brighter than daytime running lights but turning them on also activates the tail lights. This lighting makes the vehicle more visible.

  31. Lengthen the distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead. Stopping distance on an icy road is double that of stopping on a dry one. For example, from around 45 metres (140 ft) at the speed of 60 km/h, to 80 metres (over 260 ft) on an icy road surface.

  32. Stay in the right-hand lane except when passing, and use turn signals when changing lanes.

  33. Steer with smooth and precise movements. Changing lanes too quickly and jerky steering while braking or accelerating can cause skidding.

  34. Be aware and slow down when approaching a bridge. Steel and concrete bridges are likely to be icy even when there is no ice on the ground surface, (because bridges over open air cool down faster than roads, which tend to be insulated somewhat by solid ground.)

  35. Consider getting off the road before getting stranded if the weather is worsening.

  36. Be patient and pass other cars only when it is safe.

  37. Keep a safe distance back from snow plows, and trucks applying salt, sand or anti-icing agents.

  38. Never pass a snow plow due to the whiteout conditions and ridge of snow created by the plow. Above all, if you find yourself starting to skid, remember not to panic, look where you want your vehicle to go and drive in that direction, take your foot off the brake, and do not accelerate!

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