CAA’s Advice to Help You Drive Smarter and Safer This Winter
Here’s what you need to know to help you drive smarter and safer this winter.
• Oil: Make the switch to synthetic. When the temperatures drop, it won’t thicken up like conventional oil, allowing it to flow better, reduce engine wear and provide easier start-up in winter.
• Wipers and Fluid: Replace worn-out blades. Fill it up with winter-grade washer fluid – it won’t freeze in the reservoir and damage hoses during below-zero temps.
• Block Heater: Check it with a block-heater tester before frigid conditions set in. Make sure you don’t have any cracks or tears in the cord. Always plug your vehicle in when the temperature falls below -15°C.
• Battery: The battery is your vehicle’s lifeline. Cold conditions can weaken it and cause it to fail. Check it often and have it charged or changed if necessary.
• Battery Tender: When leaving your vehicle parked for an extended period, a battery tender will keep it charged at the proper storage voltage.
• All-Weather, 3 Season and Winter Tires: 3-season (a.k.a. all-season) tires work well in spring, summer and fall. But all-weather or winter tires are best for driving on snow and ice as the rubber designed for snowy and icy conditions will perform better than all-seasons. The deep tread design provides up to 50% better traction on winter roads. Rubber in all-seasons start to lose elasticity and harden at around 7°C, reducing its ability to grip the road.
• Tire Pressure: When the thermometer goes down, so does your tire pressure. Even though most vehicles have a Temperature Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), it’s a good idea to check the tires at least monthly (don’t forget the spare) or more often during the colder temperatures. If you’re not sure if your vehicle is winter-ready, have it checked by a professional.
• Check weather and road conditions. If conditions are poor, stay off the roads and make alternate plans.
• Plan your route in advance. Allow extra time for travel and let others know your rotes and ETA.
• Snow and ice can triple your stopping distance. Leave more-than-normal space between the car ahead of you and use turn signals well in advance to alert drivers behind you.
• Avoid using cruise control on a slippery road. Your tires can lose their traction trying to keep to a set speed.
• Focus on smooth braking and steering in slippery conditions. If you jerk the wheel or slam the brakes, your tire treads could lose traction with the road and start sliding.
• Don’t crowd the plow. When you encounter a snow plow on the highway, your visibility may be limited. Slow down and drive with caution. Legislation requires that motorists slow to 60 km when passing a snow plow with lights flashing whether the snow plow is in operation or pulled over to the side of the road. (courtesy of Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure)
• Slow down when passing tow trucks – it’s the law. Saskatchewan motorists must slow to 60 km/hour near working tow trucks with safety lights flashing on highways.
• Pack extra clothing and gear for all occupants: Including footwear, non-perishable food, and water.
• Carry a fully charged mobile phone and portable phone battery charger. This is a ‘must have’ for emergency use or if you need to call for roadside assistance. A properly charged phone could be your lifeline in an emergency.
• Pack a roadside assistance kit: Including a flashlight, battery booster cables, shovel, snow brush, ice scraper, etc.
• Drive with caution: In school zones and residential areas. Pedestrians will need extra time to cross streets due to snow and ice which also means you will need extra time to stop safely.
If you do become stranded, here are some rules to follow:
1. Don’t panic. Keep calm.
2. Stay with your vehicle. It will make it easier for rescuers or tow operators to find you. Know where you are so you can identify your location.
3. The fully charged mobile phone you have with you, will come in handy to call for help.
4. Make an SOS. Place a bright scarf or blanket in a rolled-up window to signal distress.
5. Don’t overexert yourself. Pushing or digging out will just make you cold and tired.
6. Stay warm. Run the engine just long enough to remove the chill; then turn it off to conserve fuel. Clear snow and ice from the exhaust pipe to prevent carbon monoxide leaking into the vehicle.
Distracted driving has become a major Canadian national issue and all 10 provinces have some form of mobile phone/distracted driving legislation in place. In Saskatchewan, fines start at $280 with four demerits.
Distracting driving is defined 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/drinking, 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.
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 distrated 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.
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 about how big trucks operate, the more comfortable you’ll be sharing the road with them.
When you’re driving behind a large commercial vehicle, give yourself a six-second following distance on the highway and four seconds in town. Estimate the correct distance by noting when the vehicle in front passes a certain point – a lamp post or road sign – and count down the seconds until you reach that same point. Learn more about this important topic.
Read the article in the fall issue of CAA Saskatchewan Magazine.
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 Slow Down Move Over Day
May 14, 2019 was CAA Slow Down Move Over Day, a national day of safety for tow truck operators. CAA has long advocated for the protection of roadside assistance workers through Slow Down, Move Over legislation. CAA Clubs across Canada have designated May 14 as Slow Down Move Over Day to bring attention to this important issue. In Saskatchewan, it’s the law to slow to 60 km/h for working tow truck operators and first responders on our highways.
To increase public awareness of this important issue, a media event was staged at 9:30 a.m. outdoors of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building on May 14, 2019 in Regina with CAA Saskatchewan and the following community partners: SGI, Saskatchewan Association Chiefs of Police, Paramedic Services Chiefs of Saskatchewan, and Roadside Responders Association of Saskatchewan.
“Tow truck operators and first responders help others. As motorists, we also need to help them by slowing to 60 km/h and giving them plenty of room when passing,” said Minister Responsible for SGI Joe Hargrave. “When you see those flashing lights out on the roadside, think about the people that might be standing there too – slow down and move over to keep them safe.”
“Tow truck drivers, along with law enforcement and emergency service providers are responding to unplanned incidents on our roads and highways,” said Bruce Anderson, CAA Saskatchewan Board of Directors. “We are reminding drivers that they can provide a safe working environment for those working on our highways, by slowing down and moving over. We thank Minister Hargrave and all our community partners for joining us today to emphasize the importance of Slow Down and Move Over. This is an important safety message to apply not just today, but every day.”
Watch the video of the announcement of CAA Slow Down Move Over Day with Minister Joe Hargrave, Bruce Anderson, Chief Rick Bourassa, Steve Skoworodko, and Geoff Roller.
Watch the Slow Down Move Over Day video produced by CAA with tow truck operator Greg McCracken who shares his concerns about his personal safety while on the job.
- All eight CAA clubs in the federation of the Canadian Automobile Association, including CAA Saskatchewan, observed and promoted May 14th as National Slow Down and Move Over Day.
- There are approximately 24 million motorists and 15,000 tow truck operators on the road annually in Canada.
- There are thousands of near misses experienced by emergency roadside operators annually and across North America, nearly 100 tow truck drivers are killed every year, after being struck by oncoming traffic while helping stranded motorists with flat tires, breakdowns, and collisions.
- In Saskatchewan, a tow truck operator was killed on duty during a blizzard while working in the Esterhazy area in 2017.
- CAA Saskatchewan provides roadside assistance 365 days a year, 24/7 with the CAA Regina fleet and 200 CAA towing contractors in the province.
- CAA is one of the largest consumer-based organizations in Canada, serving a total of 6 million Members.
- On April 6, 2017, the Government of Saskatchewan announced new legislation allowing tow trucks to display flashing blue lights, in conjunction with amber lights on tow trucks providing roadside assistance in Saskatchewan. Adding blue lights will increase visibility from further distances on Saskatchewan highways. According to Minister Joe Hargrave, “Adding blue lights to these vehicles will alert motorists sooner, providing them ample time to slow to 60 km while passing. It will help make highways safer for all road users, and help our roadside responders make it home safely.” Saskatchewan is the first province to introduce such legislation. CAA Saskatchewan, as a member of the Roadside Responders Association of Saskatchewan, was pleased to meet with government officials and members of the association to endorse and support this new legislation.
- In 2007, CAA Saskatchewan worked with the provincial government to have tow trucks added to the section of the Traffic Safety Act (Tow Trucks) which requires drivers to slow to 60 km/h when passing emergency vehicles providing assistance to motorists on Saskatchewan highways.
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