School of Justice Studies Instructor Craig Deimuth (Criminal Justice – Policing 1988) knows that when the snow starts to fly, fender benders and more serious collisions are not far behind. In November, December and January 2014, there were more than 45,000 collisions in Alberta, including 4,524 where someone was injured and 72 where someone died. Deimuth, who spent 13 years with the traffic response unit of the Lethbridge Regional Police Service, used to write the collision analysis reports following collisions throughout the city, and the experience has left him with some words of wisdom. As Colin Skulmoski, an instructor in the college’s Heavy Equipment Technician program for seven years, prepared to change the tires of a car in one of the automotives bays in the new trades and technologies facility, Deimuth took a few moments to pass along some safe driving tips to the readers of Wider Horizons.
Wider Horizons: What are three of the most common driving mistakes people make when the weather turns bad?
Craig Deimuth: Not adjusting speed for road conditions – driving too fast – is the most common mistake. People also don’t leave enough room between their car and the car in front of them. And finally, people often don’t prepare for winter soon enough.
WH: What should drivers carry in their vehicles in the winter to be safe?
CD: It’s best to make sure you always have cold weather gear, warm footwear, headgear and gloves as well as a scraper with you. It’s also helpful to have a blanket, a candle in a metal container and matches, a bag of kitty litter to help you if you get stuck, booster cables and a mini snow shovel.
WH: What should you do if you start to slide on ice while driving?
CD: Don’t panic. Take your foot off the gas. If you are starting to skid, turn into the skid. Know how your ABS brakes work. People still think they need to pump the brakes, but they don’t if they have ABS brakes. It can be helpful to go to a parking lot and test out your brakes and feel that grind as they lock on ice. And make sure you are driving for the conditions.
WH: Has changing technology affected the way people should drive in the winter?
CD: People become overconfident with the technology in their vehicles. The higher quality of winter tires or all-weather tires can make some people feel over confident and so they continue to drive too fast for the conditions and still expect their car to stop as quickly as it usually does. The technology is there to benefit a driver – but we still need to adjust our driving habits for the weather.
WH: What should drivers do when visibility is reduced?
CD: First of all, make sure your windows are clear of snow and frost. Let’s not make it worse by reducing your ability to see a hazard. You want to make sure everyone can see you – that your lights are on and that you are as visible as possible.
WH: Any tips for driving after a big dump of snow?
CD: If you have a heavy dump, you want to slow down. Also, try to avoid driving in the same tire tracks as the cars that went before you. You can sometimes get greater traction if you drive in fresh snow.
WH: Do you need snow tires in southern Alberta?
CD: I’d recommend that drivers have either a good set of all-season tires or all-weather snow tires. I do think snow tires are the best if that’s possible.
WH: What should you do if you get stuck or stranded in the snow?
CD: First, make sure you have emergency items with you. Make sure you have a full charge on your phone. And if you are in a rural area, stay in your vehicle. Don’t get out and hike in a lot of snow, especially if you are not dressed for it.
WH: What is a safe speed for driving on ice and snow?
CD: No speed is 100 per cent safe. If you are in a 50 km/hr zone, you may want to go down to 20. Know the limits of your vehicle and do a roadway test to see how slippery the roads are. Always slow down. And if there’s severe weather and you don’t have to drive – stay home.
For more information about the Criminal Justice program at Lethbridge College, call 403.329.7246 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.