Okay, the chill is in the air, the snow is about to fly, and chances are you’ve packed away the t-shirts and sandals and have your winter boots and coats ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. So, why should you treat driving any differently? That’s a question the Ontario Safety League would like the answer to as well.
“You don’t wear your Birkenstocks in the winter and you don’t wear your winter boots in the summer,” says Brian Patterson, President of the Ontario Safety League. “We’ve moved into the winter, we have changed our footwear, and you have to change your footwear on your car.”
As drivers gear up to take the Canadian winter by storm, priority number one for Mr. Patterson is ensuring drivers in York Region have four winter tires.
Over the last three years, Mr. Patterson says the League has seen a steady increase in winter tire usage and awareness, with the last survey topping 62 per cent compliance, an increase of 12 per cent.
“It is encouraging and I think people are starting to see it in the math,” he says. “You don’t have to be on Dragon’s Den to figure out there is value for money.”
“All-season” tires are a particular problem in getting this message out, he says, as it really means “all seasons except winter.” Some dealers have said a new set of all-season tires will get them through their first winter, but while that might be a good sales pitch, it is simply not the case, he adds.
“I think the biggest issue is inconvenience, but you will find over the next three weeks there are probably five or six different channels that you can get your tires on, whether it is through your dealer, whether it is in conjunction with your winter tine-up, whether it is in conjunction with your oil change.”
While you’re doing your regular winter maintenance, priority number two, according to Mr. Patterson, should be checking your battery. A brand-new battery is good for about five years, and winter can put particular stress on this internal component.
“Cranking the car over in the winter is far more demanding on the battery than in the summer,” says Mr. Patterson. “If you have a 70 per cent battery in the summer, you’re probably still starting without a problem. If you take a cold engine with cold fluids and need to crank it over, you need 100 per cent battery. After four years, you’re moving into the range, but after five you certainly want to make sure.”
With the “footwear” and battery maintenance done, it is important to plan ahead, particularly for the holiday season. Mr. Patterson says he is a big fan of investing in roadside assistance, especially if you’re not “mechanically inclined”, as well as in-vehicle first aid and safety kits, and jumper cables.
“You may not know how to use jumper cables, but if you have jumper cables you’re more likely to find someone who does,” he says, noting if you’re stranded in the mall, holding your jumper cables in hand will more than likely get someone who does know how to use them to stop their car to lend a hand.
The holiday season also brings a flurry of holiday parties, and planning for a safe ride home is an obvious must. If you don’t have a designated driver, take the time to check out other services that might be available in your community, such as volunteer designated driver services closer to Christmas, pay per use services such as Keys To Us, which now has extended hours in York Region, learn how they work and how to access them.
And be vigilant of others on the road.
“The number one tip I think is if you see someone driving impaired to call 911,” says Mr. Patterson. “York Regional Police are well equipped to address the problem, and the best equipped in the province as the focused on it, take it seriously, and you can rest assured they will put priority one on your phone call.”
Written by Brock Weir