Sizing Up the Road - How to safely drive alongside big trucks and other commercial vehicles
The larger the vehicle, the greater the challenge driving near it. But with some understanding how big trucks operate, the more comfortable you'll be sharing the road with them.
Family First - How to protect loved ones in your car and on the road
While we can never completely eliminate the risks associated with driving, we all have the power to take simple steps to protect our loved ones.
Slow Down Move Over
Promoting safe driving near tow trucks and first responder vehicles.
If you’ve ever had to pull over on a Saskatchewan roadway, you know how nerve-wracking it can be. Even if you’re far over on the shoulder—even if your hazard lights are on—other vehicles often whip past, mere metres from where you stand. In other words, you’re vulnerable.
So, too, is the tow truck operator who responds to your call for roadside assistance.
“We really depend on the motoring public to help keep us safe—by slowing to 60 km/h on highways—when passing us at work,” says Brad Stratychuk, president of the Roadside Responders Association of Saskatchewan. “It really is a matter of life and death.”
Across Canada, there are more than 7,500 tow truck operators employed by or contracted to provincial CAA clubs. Each one receives ongoing training, plus equipment like tall reflective pylons and high-visibility clothing, to ensure that they—and the members they’re helping—stay as safe as possible at the roadside.
Even then, some motorists don’t heed the warnings. Tragically, a tow truck operator near Esterhazy, Saskatchewan, was struck and killed in 2017 while working during a blizzard. In November 2019, an Oshawa tow truck driver was killed while assisting a motorist on a highway near Durham, Ontario.
In Saskatchewan, you must slow to 60 km/h when passing emergency and service vehicles parked at the side of the road with their lights flashing. This includes tow trucks, tire service vehicles, police cars, ambulances, fire trucks, highway workers and snowplows. Drivers who don’t follow the law could face fines of $170 or higher, based on speed.
“Tow truck operators and first responders help others,” says Joe Hargrave, the Minister Responsible for SGI. “When you see those flashing lights on the roadside, think about the people who might be standing there too; slow down and move over to keep them safe.”
The addition of blue lights to tow trucks has increased visibility on Saskatchewan highways. “We worked with key safety stakeholders to lobby the Government of Saskatchewan for new legislation allowing tow trucks to display blue lights in addition to amber lights when assisting motorists,” says Scott McIntyre, CAA Saskatchewan’s vice-president of automotive services. In April 2017, Saskatchewan became the first province to permit this additional safety precaution.
While the exact number of collisions involving tow trucks is unknown, data from CAA National indicate that each year in North America, dozens of tow operators are killed while doing their jobs. Each and
every one of these deaths is entirely preventable: Slow down, move over!
May 11, 2021 is Slow Down Move Over Day!
CAA clubs across the country named the second Tuesday in May as national “Slow Down Move Over Day.” The special day raises awareness of laws in place to protect tow truck operators, first responders such as law enforcement and paramedics and highway workers. Stay tuned for further details!
Distracting driving is defined by CAA as any distraction that takes the driver’s eyes and mind away from the road. Some common distractions include use of a mobile phone for talking, texting, emailing or surfing, reaching for a moving object, eating, or applying makeup. Distracted driving can pose a serious threat to the safety of others on the road. Eliminating preventable distractions before the driver gets behind the wheel not only makes driving less stressful, but it can also save lives.
Unfortunately distracted driving still remains a serious safety concern and has become a major Canadian national issue. All 10 provinces have some form of mobile phone/distracted driving legislation in place.
Recent Saskatchewan statistics indicate that driver distraction or inattention contributed to more than 6,000 (6,039) collisions in 2018, resulting in 774 injuries and 22 deaths. (June TSS Distracted Driving, KMQA, SGI)
Drivers in the Prairies More Worried Than Ever About Texting and Driving
A November 2017 CAA Saskatchewan poll found an overwhelming majority of drivers in the Prairies think texting and driving is getting worse, despite extensive public education efforts and moves by law enforcement to crack down. More than four out of five drivers (83%) believe texting while driving is a bigger problem today than it was three years ago. Texting and driving is tied with drunk driving as the #1 road safety concern among drivers, according to CAA’s poll. A whopping 96% say that drivers who text and drive are a threat to their personal safety on the road.
Here are a few surprising statistics on distracted driving and its consequences:
- 33 per cent of Canadians admit they have texted while stopped at a red light, despite believing it is unacceptable. (CAA, 2016)
- 10% of fatal crashes, 18% of injury crashes, and 16% of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes were distraction-affected crashes. (National Highway Safety Administration, 2015)
- Driver distraction is a factor in about 4 million motor vehicle crashes in North America each year.
- Distraction was a factor in nearly 6 out of 10 moderate-to-severe teen crashes. (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 2015)
- About 26% of all car crashes involve phone use, including hands-free phone use. (National Safety Council)
- Estimates indicate drivers using phones look at, but fail to see, up to 50% of the information in their driving environment. (National Safety Council)
CAA has prepared a few safety reminders to help eliminate distracted driving:
- Before you Drive: Allow plenty of travel time; stow and secure loose objects; prepare children with everything they need before driving; and, when safe to do so, park the vehicle to address any required or immediate attention.
- While you Drive: Keep two hands on the wheel at all times; avoid eating or drinking while driving; do not groom; and, do not text, use apps, or read emails.
- Some distractions may be unavoidable but eliminating preventable distractions before we get behind the wheel not only makes driving less stressful, but it can also save lives.
Once upon a time, a dim instrument panel reminded motorists that their headlights weren’t engaged. But in most new vehicles, the panel is backlit anytime the engine is running. This leads some motorists to assume their daytime running lights (DRL) are also on. Problem is, in many vehicles, DRL doesn’t include rear illumination. “Before sunrise, after sunset and in bad weather, you get what are known as phantom vehicles,” says Christine Niemczyk, CAA Saskatchewan’s director of corporate communications and public relations. These are cars that are virtually invisible from behind because their rear lights aren’t on. “It’s a pet peeve for many drivers. And it’s a safety issue due to the visibility risks.” Transport Canada has acknowledged it receives a high number of concerned letters about phantom vehicles—and is now taking steps to address those concerns. As of 2021, all new cars sold in Canada will be required to be more visible in low-light conditions, by having one of three features:
- Daytime running lights and taillights that turn on when the instrument panel is illuminated, and the vehicle is in operation;
- Headlights, taillights, and side marker lights that automatically turn on in low-light conditions;
- An instrument panel that remains dark until the driver manually turns on all the lights.
This isn’t the first time Canada has led the way with regard to vehicle lighting standards. In 1989, we were the first country to require automatic DRL on all new vehicles, buoyed by research showing that it could reduce crash incidence by up to 15 percent during the day.
The irony is that DRL—designed to improve visibility—can inadvertently put drivers at risk, if they believe their full lighting system is engaged by default. “It also impacts motorists following you. If they can’t see your taillights, it decreases their reaction time to brake or avoid a rear-end collision,” Niemczyk says. To increase awareness about phantom vehicles, CAA partnered with Transport Canada on the See and Be Seen campaign, launched in 2018. So how can you ensure your car is lit? Many vehicles have an “auto” option whereby sensors gauge ambient light to switch between DRL and a fully engaged headlight system; just make sure that setting is on. Look for an “A,” “Auto” or the DRL symbol on your light dial. For cars lacking an automatic option, keeping your headlights on when driving is the safest bet.
CAA supports keeping seniors driving for as long as safely possible through a variety of initiatives:
- The Canadian Automobile Association used decades of experience in road safety, along with expert assistance from the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists, to design a toolkit for seniors and their loved ones. Use the toolkit to assess fitness to drive under different conditions, stay safe behind the wheel, maintain driving confidence as you age, and take concrete steps to modify driving habits if needed. Learn More
- CarFit, an educational program for senior drivers, provides a quick, yet comprehensive review of how well you and your vehicle work together. Personal mobility is critical for healthy aging, but ill-fitting vehicles can make it uncomfortable and unsafe to drive. Today’s vehicles have many features that offer enhanced restraints and protection, yet many drivers are unaware of those features or how to use them properly. CarFit helps to identify how the fit of your vehicle can affect your driving and how minor adjustments and adaptations can assist your changing needs. CarFit is free of charge for participants and is open to CAA Members and the public. Sign up for a CarFit clinic at caask.ca/carfit.
- 55 Alive Mature Drivers Program offered by Saskatchewan Safety Council. Contact the Saskatchewan Safety Council for more information.
CAA recognizes the critical requirement for young drivers to start their driving careers off on the right foot. CAA offers new drivers and their parents, useful reminders, tips, questions and do’s and don’ts that parents and new drivers can refer to throughout the learning-to-drive process. Learn More