Winter driving conditions take extra attention, SGI warns

Now that Saskatchewan has seen its first dump of snow this fall, residents can prepare for winter — outdoor rinks, snow angels and, of course, winter driving conditions.

Although it’s something that the province deals with every year, some simple measures can be taken while out on the road to avoid a collision or injury.

“Making sure that you’re giving yourself plenty of time to get where you’re going,” SGI communication director Tyler McMurchy said. “So, it might mean leaving early because you will have to adjust your speed for these driving conditions. The posted speed limits are not necessarily the speed you want to be driving at when you’re dealing with reduced traction and visibility on the roads.

“So, reduce your speed accordingly, increase your following distance behind the vehicle in front of you. It’s really important to increase your following distance to five or six seconds from the three you’d normally have in ideal driving conditions.”

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However, the preparations for driving in winter conditions don’t just happen while behind the wheel. According to McMurchy, they begin before you step foot inside of your vehicle.

“Safe winter driving starts before you even hit the road,” he explained. “You want to start by fully cleaning off your vehicle, removing the snow and frost and the ice from your windshield, your front and back windshields, as well as your side windows, your mirrors, fully cleaning off your headlights and taillights as well.”

SGI recommends that all vehicles contain a winter safety kit, especially those that are frequently travelling on the highway.

“That can include things like booster cables, a small snow shovel, traction mats, extra clothing or blankets to keep warm in the event that you do get stranded for any period of time, some non-perishable food, a candle to melt snow for water,” he said. “We’re not dealing with blizzard conditions at this point, but it bears in mind, having that emergency kit can really make a situation like that something you can deal with more easily.”

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Other precautions that can be taken come in the form of tires, which can make all of the difference when the snow and ice prevent the rubber from meeting the road.

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“We highly recommend drivers invest in a set of winter tires,” McMurchy said. “When the conditions are icy, or even just cold; the special tread pattern and the rubber compound that the rubber tires are made of can really improve your traction and the control of your vehicle and prevent your chances of being in a collision.”

But, even those who are taking all of these cautionary measures, collisions are bound to occur and at an even higher rate following a fresh snowfall, especially early in the year.

“(SGI) sees a spike in claims typically that first day or two of a heavy snowfall,” McMurchy explained. “It can vary depending on the severity of the weather and also how widespread that system is. Our claims staff is happy to help drivers who find themselves in a collision, but the ideal situation is to drive safely and not get yourself involved in a collision.”

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