Monthly Archives: March 2017

Best Practices for Driving Safe in Spring

In Canada, we face the most extreme weather

Winter can be as low as -40 C (even colder with the wind chill) and summer can be as high as +40 C. That’s an 80 degree difference, which is hard on the roads and our vehicles. It also creates new challenges for us in each season, since we have to get used to the quirks and challenges of driving during that season. In summer, we face the blazing hot and blinding sun. In the winter, we barely maintain control on snowy, icy roads.

But what about the spring?

As short of a season as it is in Canada, it still presents its own unique challenges. Here are some top tips to driving safer in springtime.

  • Remember the temperature differential between day and night. The day time can be sunny and warm, but the nights can be still quite cold. As a result, the roads can still be icy when we leave the house for work in the morning, even though the weather only seems to be “jacket weather”. Adding to the challenge is the fact that snowmelt can turn to water and run off of lawns and onto roads throughout the day and then freeze into deadly ice at night
  • During the day, vast amounts of water melting from the snow can lead to roadway flooding, which can cause your vehicle to hydroplane, or can mask potholes in the road. Drive carefully when you see standing water!
  • Snow banks might be melting, but they can still be tall enough for a child to go completely unseen until it is too late. With the weather as nice as it is, children are more likely to be outside. So drive cautiously and expect children to dart out from anywhere
  • Early morning fog from the sun and the humidity can decrease visibility. Be sure to drive with your lights on
  • Don’t neglect scraping off your windows of any ice that accumulated overnight. By springtime, no one wants to do it but an icy window reduces visibility
  • Increasing day light hours might mean that you are driving into the sun in the morning or into the sun at night, or you face the rapidly changing light conditions of driving during dusk. As a result, your ability to see far in front of you isn’t easy, and it changes every day
  • Now that winter is over, cyclists are reappearing on the street. Vehicles no longer have to share the road with other vehicles but also with bicycles — some of whom obey the rules of the road and some who do not

Spring is a wonderful time because the cold, dark winter is giving way to the warm sun and the promise of a wonderful summer. But springtime can be a challenging time to drive. Be careful on those roads!

Not Every Danger on the Road is Visible

Be aware of them and watch for them so you can avoid a collision when these invisible dangers are present

  • Vehicles in your blindspot. This is probably the best-known “invisible danger” and yet so many drivers fail to check their blindspots before turning. A quick shoulder-check gives you an opportunity to sweep your blindspots with your eyes to make sure it’s safe to turn
  • Children. Children are oblivious to the world around them. And they’re short. That’s a scary combination! Any snowbank, parked vehicle, or large tree could have a child standing behind it who is about to go running obliviously out onto the street. Spot those hazards and watch them carefully as you approach them
  • Anything to the left or right of your vehicle while reversing. There are several dangers that you can face while going forward. But there is one big invisible danger you face when reversing: It’s anything to the left or the right of your vehicle! As you back up, and presumably turn your wheel, the front of your vehicle swings in that direction… but most people’s necks are craned around so they can see out the back window at the time. A slight change in direction and you can knock the mirror off of your vehicle or dent your fender
  • Cyclists who don’t obey the rules of the road. Cyclists are required to obey the rules of the road. For the ones that do, we can appreciate their predictability. However, not all cyclists do and the ones that don’t are less predictable and therefore less safe to be around. Watch for cyclists, especially ones that don’t see to be doing the same things you are!
  • Parked vehicles that pull out in front of you. When you’re driving past a line of vehicles that are parked parallel to the curb, it’s easy to assume that no one is moving. After all, they’re parked. But vehicles might be pulling out of their space and they don’t have a lot of room to move… or to see you
  • Cell phone talkers. Many jurisdictions are banning cell phones while driving. But this doesn’t stop drivers from using them. When you see someone driving nearby with a cell phone, be aware that although you might be focused on the road, they are not! Drive accordingly. If you’re both driving side-by-side, headed in the same direction, consider accelerating a little to get out of the way in case they decide to switch lanes

8 Ways You Can Drive Safer Right Now

Here are eight ways you can be a safer driver

  1. Slow down. Speed is one of the top causes of collisions. Actually, it’s not speed itself but it’s the reduced reaction time that you have when you drive above the speed limit. Speed limits are chosen for a reason, including the number of potential hazards you’ll face on a road and the distance you need to stop.
  2. Don’t call or text. Distracted driving is on the rise as mobile devices become more popular. We lead busy lives and feel the need to multitask in the vehicle while we drive. However, driving takes 100% of our attention.
  3. Slow down at crosswalks. Yes, you are already watching your speed (see #1) but slowing down at crosswalks is a good way to stay vigilant just in case a pedestrian steps out without properly signalling.
  4. Be aware of the danger zones. Danger zones aren’t necessarily places but times. There are certain times of the day when different hazards exist. For example, at dawn or dusk, animals might be more likely to roam the streets unseen. Also, just before or after school hours are prime times for kids to be running around. You should always be watching the road, but at these times it is prudent to watch the road for specific hazards.
  5. Harness your emotions. Driving seems to be an increasingly emotional situation – we have “road rage” and “intersection rage” and “parking lot” rage. Everyone rages because other people aren’t moving faster or more predictably. Although it might feel good to get angry at other drivers, the best thing to do is get control over your emotions and let it pass.
  6. Be predictable. While you might be raging at other drivers, it’s possible that you are not as predictable as you think you are. Check your signalling, turning, braking and your accelerating to make sure that other drivers know what you are doing.
  7. Plan ahead. Although it is tempting to speed, you can actually get somewhere faster by planning ahead. A quick check online of local road conditions and construction can reveal where the slow routes and the fast routes are.
  8. Stay focused and in control. Your vehicle is a machine and it requires your full attention and care in order to maneuver it. Driving haphazardly will relinquish control and it can turn your vehicle into a deadly weapon.

Most Dangerous Bad Habits of Seasoned Drivers

The combination of inexperience and peer pressure to occasionally do dangerous things is not a good combination when someone is behind the wheel.

However, that doesn’t mean seasoned drivers are necessarily safer. Seasoned drivers can still be unsafe drivers… But for very different reasons. For seasoned drivers, it all boils down to habits. Seasoned drivers might start off with good habits but over time it is easy to become lazy and let some good driving habits disappear, or even to fail to keep up to the changing demands of driving.

Here are some of the top ways that seasoned drivers are unsafe drivers

  • They fail to check their mirrors and/or blindspots as frequently as they are supposed to. Checking mirrors and blindspots ensures that the driver is aware of the location of nearby vehicles. Seasoned drivers who might have enjoyed years of collision-free driving, sometimes let this essential habit slip as they focus on other things – the road ahead or something going on in the vehicle
  • They fail to adequately control the vehicle. Although driving with “hands on ten and two” (the location of the hands on the steering wheel) might have been something they were initially taught, seasoned drivers might allow comfort rather than control decide on their driving skills.” Hands on ten and two” soon becomes one hand at twelve while the other one hangs out the window. Or, worse yet, one FINGER at six while the other hand sense text messages
  • They spend more time focused on things inside of the vehicle. Seasoned drivers have vehicles that can do more things – from controlling temperatures in zones to more selections on a satellite radio. Plus, seasoned drivers tend to carry more passengers that they pay attention to (specifically: a back seat full of children). Seasoned drivers can often divert their focus from the road to spend more time on things inside their vehicle
  • They rely on the safety features of their vehicles. Seasoned drivers might become used to the power steering and power brakes and other safety features of their vehicle and put their reliance on those things. Soon, those conveniences give the illusion of safety and real safe-driving skills can erode
  • They fail to keep up with the changes on the road. Seasoned drivers get used to driving on specific roads in a specific environment. The slightest change can disrupt their patterns and keep them from driving safely

There are safe drivers at all ages, and there are unsafe drivers at all ages. It’s easy to point to brand new drivers and blame them for being unsafe but seasoned drivers can be unsafe as well. It is everyone’s responsibility to choose to drive safely every day.