The holidays are a great time of year – we take time to see family and friends and to share in all the good things life has to offer. They can, however, mean that the roads aren’t as safe as they could be and you should take extra care when driving.
Why are less safe? There are three big reasons:
- More people on the road on the way to visit family or to attend events.
- More drinking and driving.
- Bad winter weather.
Unsafe Driving – a Look at the Statistics
Driving may never be perfectly safe, but according to the numbers there is a lot of room for improvement.
In the US, driving fatalities involving alcohol rose 34% between Christmas and New Years’ in 2005. In Canada we have similar recent statistics. In Ontario, drinking and driving was responsible for 25% of road fatalities in 2013.
It’s not just about alcohol, however. The same Ontario Ministry of Transportation study showed there were other big causes of collisions. Lack of attention was responsible for 16.6% of accidents resulting in fatalities, and speed was involved in 13.7%.
Ways to Stay Accident Free
Whether you’re going across the city or across the province, here are some key ways you can stay safe.
1. Give Yourself Plenty of Time to Get There
Wherever you’re going, make sure you have a good idea how long it will take to get there and plan accordingly. If you’re rushed and panicky because you’ll be late for dinner, you’re more likely to be distracted and to take chances. If the roads are icy and you’re going faster than you should be, that can invite disaster. For longer trips, keep an eye on the weather and if possible time your travel days with better conditions.
2. Pull Over to Deal With Distractions
If you get a call on your phone from that important client or if your toddler decides to freak out, just pull over to deal with it. Focusing on one thing at a time may mean your trip takes longer but at least you’ll get there in one piece.
3. Stay Aware of What’s Happening Around You
Keep much of your attention on the road ahead, but you also need to make sure you’re checking your rearview and side mirrors. I test drive new vehicles every week and I’ve learned something. The blind spots in vehicles made after 2005 are actually bigger than before. This is because the pillars around the windshield, side and rear windows are larger now. You should be aware of this and drive accordingly. According to this Young Drivers of Canada instructor, you should be checking your mirrors every 5 to 8 seconds.
4. Pass Other Vehicles Efficiently
If I had a nickel for every time I saw a car start passing another, only to slow down and sit in the other vehicle’s blind spot I’d be rich. Driving on the highway I even see people doing this with transport trucks. If you’re going to pass, speed up and pass.
5. Use Winter Tires
Winter tires are life savers, end of story. As far as we’re concerned winter tires should be mandatory in Ottawa’s climate. But you don’t need to take our word for it – a 2011 study in Quebec showed that winter accidents dropped 18% after winter tires were made mandatory.
6. Handle Winter Driving Situations Correctly
While winter tires are essential, you still have to adapt your driving technique to the situation. Slow down on icy roads, don’t use cruise control and learn how to deal with skids. There are even schools that can teach you how.
In terms of pumping the brakes, if your car has an anti-lock braking system don’t do it because it can backfire.
And please: never, ever tailgate!
7. Top Up Car Fluids
You never know when the weather conditions can change, so ensure you have plenty of windshield washer fluid especially.
8. Consider Winter Car Modifications
You can get windshield wipers made especially for winter that resist ice and don’t stick as much. You can also get windshield treatments like Aquapel that help slush and ice slide off the glass. You should also have a set in emergency winter supplies in your car in case you run into trouble. This page has a great list.
If everyone takes extra care, we can all get where we’re going. Remember to stay up to date with regular service appointments, use winter tires, be aware of everything that’s going on around you and please please please don’t drink and drive!
Stay safe this holiday season!
Danny Fangione and the Bemac Team