Yes, it is winter. Maybe not officially but for all intents and purposes, it's here. The snowfall that closed the Coquihalla Highway Friday and turned parts of the superhighway into an icy mess confirm it. And with the season comes some new driving realities. It's time to slow down.
Now, we hear about the need to drive more slowly all the time. The RCMP engage in campaigns throughout the year designed to make us curtail our speed when behind the wheel, because it's been shown time and again that speeding causes accidents.
Winter introduces a new wrinkle, however, by making speed a relative concept. It's entirely possible at this time of the year to be speeding while never exceeding posted speed limits.
We won't get into an extensive lesson in the physics of motion, momentum, co-efficients of friction and stopping distances.
Suffice it to say that snow and ice over pavement rob our vehicles of what could arguably be the most important requirement - the ability to brake and stop quickly. Unfortunately, we do not lose our ability to accelerate. It's possible to cruise along on winter highways as if they were summer bare. Until we need to slow down.
Four-wheel drive offers no help and can in fact, make matters worse. While 4x4s improve traction, they do nothing to improve stopping distances. Ironically, a four-wheel-drive car or truck might inadvertently give a driver a false sense of confidence while winter driving, something that again, will be quickly lost when the time comes to stop.
The fact is, drivers must make conscious choices to drive according to conditions, to slow down, to leave more time to reach destinations. It takes longer to get from Kamloops to Vancouver in the winter now. Period.
For those who are tempted to think winter driving is no different than summer driving, we offer this advice. Roll the window of your vehicle down all the way, as if you might on a hot summer's day. We're confident the sharp sting of winter's breath across your face will remind you it isn't summer anymore.
And lastly, buy proper snow tires. All-season rubber really isn't good enough.
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