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Split-second decisions


Andrea Stockton, staff writer

January 13, 2012 — Motorists are reminded to adjust their driving behaviour during the winter months. How prepared can you be to avoid a collision?

Adjusting your overall schedule can help keep you safe on the roads
Adjusting your overall schedule can help keep you safe on the roads

Driving experts say some motorists face additional pressure on the roads during the winter months. Poor conditions can lead to reduced visibilities and can increase the time it takes to get to a certain destination.

Failing to adjust your driving behaviour according to the conditions can get you into trouble on the roads. Things like freezing rain, black ice and even sun glare from the snow could lead to an accident.

While some collisions may seem unavoidable, officials say if you approach the drive with the right tactics, your travel time should be problem free.

“It involves different strategies, for example, knowing when to drive versus not,” says Berk Dietrich with Young Drivers. “If conditions are really that bad that you can't see yourself handling the drive safely, then don't.”

Dietrich adds that drivers tend to drive based on the traction they have.

“So in the summer months they tend to drive a bit faster, brake a bit later, accelerate a bit heavier and all of this has to change when you're on reduced traction surfaces in the winter. You can't continue to drive as if the roads are dry.”

Keeping a safe distance when the roads deteriorate is also crucial. Dietrich suggests using time to judge how far away you should be from another vehicle.

“At city speeds, on good conditions, we would recommend a minimum of two second following distance. While if the conditions are poor, then you would increase that to a four second following distance.”

Transport trucks need more time for response
Transport trucks need more time for response

Drivers should be aware of the response time needed to stop or turn based on the vehicle they're operating.

“If you look at a car versus a transport truck and its ability to stop, we all know that the transport truck will take longer,” says Dietrich. “So from the perspective of the vehicle you drive, clearly you need to know what its limitations are and adjust for that.”

Dietrich says drivers need to always be prepared for what's happening in the rear view mirror as well.

“It's one thing if you can stop your car in a given distance, but if the vehicle behind you has no chance at all of stopping in the distance that you can, you clearly put yourself into a collision situation by stopping in front of them. You may have to change lanes to get out of the way or take a relatively unplanned turn to get out of the way.”

Officials recommend approaching winter driving from the moment you head out towards your car. Make sure the car is completely cleaned off and adjust your overall schedule and travel time.

“The 15-20 minutes that it usually takes to get from point A to point B isn't going to be enough in poor conditions. Giving yourself extra time relieves the pressure and allows you to drive and arrive safely,” notes Dietrich.

Before heading out, be sure to monitor watches and warnings and check the highway conditions.

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