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Be prepared for winter driving

Icy road conditions sent this vehicle into the weeds. - Britt Santowski
Icy road conditions sent this vehicle into the weeds.
— image credit: Britt Santowski

wo days, and two accidents, both of them involved flipped vehicles.

On December 4, on Sooke Road at Woodlands, a vehicle flipped over and traffic was impeded for several hours in the late afternoon.

“The first one really didn’t have anything to do with ice or snow,” said Fire Chief Steve Sorensen, “(it was) bad driving.” The weather was dry and the roads were clear at the time.

On December 5, a more seasonable accident occurred. After a morning of snowfall, a driver attempted to navigate down a steep driveway at the 5000 block of Sooke Road (just east of the 17 Mile Pub). The driver hit a patch of ice on his driveway, and the rest was history. Four-wheel drive or not, it wouldn’t have made a difference. The car flipped, and the driver was lucky to walk away with only a minor bump to the head.

The take-away from the first incident is just a general reminder that traffic regulations and speed limits exist for a reason.

The take-away from the second can probably benefit more drivers: be prepared to drive in winter conditions for the next few months.

“The main points are bad tires and going too fast for road conditions,” said Sorensen, who is often one of the first responders at these crash sites. “If people just slowed down and invested in good winter tires…” he wished out loud, the unfinished sentence suggesting that then accidents could be significantly reduced.

If you have all-season tires, check that the treads are sufficient. Better yet, get snow tires. And if snow tires are not an option, you are required by ICBC to carry tire chains. There may be insurance implications if you don’t have winter tires or chains and get into an accident.

Sorensen’s advice for drivers in snowy conditions was pretty straight forward. If you know it’s going to snow and you have a steep driveway, park at the bottom. If weather dips below zero and you have water on your driveway, expect a sheet of ice and plan for it: sand, salt or park down below. Know that main roads are conditioned first, secondary roads are done when they get around to it, and driveways are the responsibility of their owners.

Sorensen also suggested that drivers have a shovel with them in their car in case they need to dig themselves out.

The final observation Sorensen made is not to take anything for granted.

“I think more four-wheel drives crash than regular cars because people think they can go anywhere. If you look in the ditches it’s often the four-by-fours,” observed Sorensen. “People are over confident with what they have, so they over drive it.” Sorensen does however recognize that that was not the case on December 5. “He was going downhill on a sheet of ice, and there really isn’t anything he could do except ride it out.”

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