As fall shades into winter, we slowly adjust to the changes in the weather: the colder temperatures, the darkness that greets us each morning and falls early each afternoon; early morning fog; fallen, slippery wet leaves; and the snow that blankets the ground and leaves roads and sidewalks slick and icy. Drivers and pedestrians both are at more risk for car accidents than usual during this time of year, and it’s not only the road conditions that make navigation challenging.
What causes accidents in the winter months?
During the fall, the sun’s glare on the roads is often noticeable and its blinding effect can also lead to accidents. Cold mornings may be accompanied by fog, making visibility challenging. There are also deer migrating and mating and they can appear on the roads unexpectedly, especially at dawn or dusk.
In winter, there may be glare from the sun shining on snow to impair visibility and there is also danger from black ice, the invisible layer of slippery stuff that blends into the sidewalk or roadway, making falls or skids increasingly likely.
Given these hazards, it is incumbent upon drivers and pedestrians both to be aware of the increased risk and to adjust their behaviours accordingly.
A 2017 study conducted by Insights West for the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) indicated that 75 per cent of British Columbia drivers admitted to bad driving habits and 40 per cent admitted that they may not remember all the rules of the road. However, “While they remain frustrated at the actions of others, drivers still hold their driving skills in high regard,” Mario Canseco of Insight West told Global News. “In fact, two-thirds think their skills are above average.”
Don’t take your skills for granted; drive defensively. Make sure your car is in good shape mechanically and stay focused on the road. Leave your phone alone when you’re behind the wheels and be prepared for the unexpected.
If you do get injured in an accident, remember that ICBC provides coverage for physiotherapy treatments for drivers, passengers or pedestrians that have been injured in a motor vehicle accident (MVA). For many injuries resulting from an accident, it is important to start physiotherapy as soon as possible to avoid future complications.
Weather in the fall is unpredictable, going from warm to cold at the drop of a hat. Your tires react to changes in temperature by expanding and contracting, causing them to lose pressure, so be sure to check tire pressure regularly. When fog descends, don’t turn on your high beams; they simply cause glare.
As the seasons turn, prepare to switch to winter tires if you live in a region where snowfall is a regular occurrence. Why not give yourself the advantage of extra grip in slick conditions? You can’t improve the challenges the weather poses to visibility, but you can improve it by clearing your windshields before you set out and by ensuring your windshield wipers are working properly and your wiper fluid reservoir is topped up. Also, be certain that you keep your gas tank full to prevent the gas from freezing in extreme temperatures.
ICBC notes that 43 per cent of all crashes involving pedestrians occur between October and January. A car – because of its size and weight – is usually the victor in any interaction with a pedestrian, so, unfairly, the burden of safety falls more heavily on anyone who is walking.
In B.C., 69 per cent of accidents involving pedestrians occur at intersections, so take extra care there. Take off your headphones or earbuds so you can hear and focus on oncoming traffic; put away your phone, too, so you can focus. Keep an eye out for drivers turning both left and right through the intersection. Try to make eye contact; don’t assume that they see you.
Visibility, in fact, is a major concern, because inclement weather decreases visibility, as does darkness. As a pedestrian, don’t jaywalk, because drivers may not see you, and try to wear reflective or light-coloured clothing in the dark to give yourself added insurance when crossing streets.
Drivers, the burden may be on pedestrians to keep themselves safe, but you need to do your part. Slow down at intersections and look carefully for pedestrians. In poor weather, they may be hard to see near streetlight posts and telephone poles.
Also, at transit stops, bear in mind that they may step out into the street to look for approaching vehicles, so cut your speed. If you’re not sure whether a pedestrian plans to cross or not, a short honk and a wave can give them the go-ahead.
Before you turn on your vehicle’s ignition, take a moment to think about the driving conditions and precautions you can take to ensure you arrive safely. One factor you can control is your speed. ICBC notes that speed limits are determined based on driving in ideal conditions. If you’re driving in the snow, rain or fog, slow down and allow yourself twice the usual braking distance for stopping, given the slick surfaces and poor visibility.
You should also ensure that your windshield has no streaks or smudges; the glare of oncoming headlights or the sun can magnify these distortions and impair your ability to see the road. In addition, be sure that your lights and signals are working properly and use them so that others are prepared for your next move.
Yes, accidents happen during fall and winter, but if you follow some of these tips, you’ll be less likely to be involved.