Nearly half of British Columbians, or 43 per cent, admit to being nervous behind the wheel during the winter months, yet the majority of those nervous drivers are unprepared for bad weather events, a BCAA study found.
The BCAA’s Winter Driving Study, which sampled 1,443 adult B.C. drivers, found 32 per cent of motorists take a “wait and see” approach when it comes to preparing their vehicles for bad weather days, while 21 per cent wait until the last minute, or have no plans to winterize their vehicles at all.
Drivers in typically less snowy parts of B.C., such as Vancouver Island and Metro Vancouver, are the least prepared for snow and winter driving.
“Chances are, no matter where you are in the province, at some point you’re going to hit bad weather,” BCAA Automotive manager Josh Smythe said.
Bad weather, Smythe noted, is not just snow, but darkness, fog, heavy rain and ice. These conditions can quickly turn any drive into a treacherous one, especially when unprepared, he said.
Calls to BCAA’s Roadside Assistance can be 40-60 per cent higher across B.C. in inclement weather. In Metro Vancouver, for instance, call volumes typically double during snowy or frigid weather.
“There are newer weather patterns to consider, including windstorms, which some of B.C. has already experienced this season,” Smythe said.
The study found unusual weather patterns have made 66 per cent of drivers “more vigilant” when it comes to having their vehicles serviced. And although Smythe said he sees this as a positive outcome, 71 per cent of B.C. motorists rated themselves as “poor winter drivers.” Forty-nine per cent, however, rated B.C. drivers “probably the worst winter drivers in Canada.”
“Some of us consider ourselves ‘frost forward’ and get our vehicles ready early in the season,” Smythe said. “But too many are too chill about winter driving and that’s just dangerous for everyone.”
Winterize your vehicle with BCAA’s tips:
1. Prepare your car to perform in winter so you can drive more safely:
- Get a complete vehicle check-up and install winter tires before cold weather sets in. Sooner is better so you don’t get caught out. For most highways in B.C., the law requires winter tires as of October 1.
- Carry a winter driving emergency kit and chains in your car.
2. Adjust your driving to match the weather conditions:
- Before you drive: check road and weather conditions, clear snow and ice from windows and lights, defog all windows.
- Route plan to avoid trickier areas such as hills or narrow unplowed streets.
- As you drive: slow down, leave more room between you and the car ahead and use turn signals well in advance.
3. Put safety first:
- Be honest about your driving skills and comfort levels—don’t drive in conditions when you don’t have the skills or if you’re nervous.
- Always have a plan b. Avoid the temptation to drive when you shouldn’t by planning other transport options.
- Shovel your driveway and consider how accessible your car is when you park, so roadside assistance can reach you if necessary.
- Carry emergency items in your car, including: highly visible winter outerwear, safety cones, battery jumper cables, a shovel, windshield scraper and brush, flashlight and batteries, warm clothes and boots, gloves, blanket, supply of non-perishable food and water, spare container of winter-grade washer fluid.