How to stay safe on the roads this winter.

Elisa Birnbaum November 14, 2019
Line of cars driving slowly along a snow-covered road.
Aside from toques, mitts and layers, the winter months require a lot more preparation and planning on the roads. It comes down to safety. And there’s no time like the present to ensure you and your car are properly equipped.


Slow down. 

First things first: make sure to give yourself more time to get where you need to be, says Kaitlynn Furse, Director of Corporate Communications at CAA. Everything takes longer in the winter. From cleaning the snow off your car, to warming it up, to traversing icy patches, planning (and patience) is necessary to avoid speeding and collisions. 


Car maintenance is key.

Second, make sure your car is running smoothly. Check your oil and other fluids. Inspect your tires. CAA recommends getting four matching winter tires, says Furse. Check the tire pressure once a month (it decreases with the cold) to help with gas mileage, stability, and to avoid getting a flat. 

Are the wiper blades still doing their job? Do you have proper visibility? Remember to check the battery too. “There’s been a 27 percent increase in battery calls over the past couple of years,” shares Furse of a challenge she attributes to extreme weather conditions and the increase in power draw due to all our devices.

And don’t forget to carry a safety kit, well-stocked with all the necessities (e.g. blanket, food, water). “No one wants to think about an emergency kit, but it’s always important to have,” she explains of the importance of being self-sufficient after a collision. Keeping an extra phone charger in your car is a good idea too, she adds, highlighting the challenge faced by many drivers who find their phone battery is dead just when they need to make an emergency call.
 
Winter roadside emergency kit items.

Collisions happen.

You may not expect to be in a collision but, in Toronto alone, 80,000 crashes are reported by police each year, says Toronto Police Sgt. Brett Moore, echoing Furse’s emphasis on preparation. Still, since most people have never been in a collision, it’s important that they know their rights and what to expect. 

Misinformation can prove dangerous and inefficient, after all. For example, many drivers mistakenly believe that they can’t move their cars after a collision and must remain on scene until the police arrive to investigate. But that only leads to incessant traffic, backups and secondary collisions.

If no one requires a hospital visit and if your car is still drivable, it’s perfectly acceptable – nay, advisable – to move the vehicle to the side of the road where you can take pictures, and exchange information. Then you can make your way to the nearest Collision Reporting Centre (CRC), advises Moore, addressing yet another misconception. 

Every driver is obligated by the Ministry of Transportation to report a crash if they assume there’s combined damage of more than two thousand dollars. But there’s no need to report it to the police, says Moore, estimating that over 80% of collisions are investigated these days at CRCs. What’s more, if your vehicle is drivable and/or if the weather is unbearable, you don’t have to go to the CRC immediately.  However, it is recommended that you visit the reporting centre within 24 hours of the collision.

If your car is not drivable, it’s essential to remain safe as you wait for help. Make sure to exit your car on the side away from traffic and ensure you’re as visible as possible, whether by raising the hood, using your hazards or other means.

Tow truck, car and cruiser at collision reporting centre.

Know your rights.

Every driver should also know their rights when it comes to towing companies. Despite a new law passed by the provincial government in January 2017, many are unaware of the rules. For instance, unless directed by police, every driver has the right to decide who can tow their vehicle and where. Also, the towing company must provide an itemized invoice before getting paid and the final bill cannot be more than 10 percent above the quoted price. To learn more, visit www.towrights.ca  

To reinforce these and other important messages, the Toronto Police recently partnered with CAA to host a media event at the East Collision Reporting Centre in Toronto. They offered advice and tips on winter driving As Furse explains, “It about planning and putting safety first.” 

For more tips, visit www.caasco.com/winterdriving