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‘People have died for the sake of 5 km/h’: slowing down key to winter driving

Al Evans
Driving school owner Al Evans has a simple observation about car accidents. “Vehicles don’t go out of control … persons lose control of the vehicle,” he says.
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Read more about our Need for Speed, its risks and consequences

Al Evans retired from the RCMP in 2000, but his desire to protect the public is still strong.

Now the owner and operator of ACE driving school in Clarenville, N.L., his focus is on education. After 25 years of police work and over 15 years with the driving school, he's pretty much seen it all.

Whether they're caused by drivers speeding in stormy conditions, slamming on their brakes too late at a stop light or trusting their summer tires to get them through winters, Evans says that many wintertime accidents could be avoided.

“First and foremost, they drive to fast for the conditions,” said Evans.

“Speed limits are designed for a reason. Speed limits are not arbitrary. They’re put there to identify a safe and prudent speed to allow a person to avoid unusual or unexpected circumstance.”

Sometimes, he says, a driver may be distracted by their thoughts and run on "auto-pilot", falling back into their clear-weather-day speed, which can prove disastrous.

“Vehicles don’t go out of control … persons lose control of the vehicle.” — Al Evans, owner and operator of ACE driving school in Clarenville, NL

Similarly, Evans explains that accidents occur when drivers don’t take the time to observe driving conditions — is the road slippery, has it been plowed properly, are there any visibility issues, is there a chance of hitting black ice?

And, warns Evans, black ice can form even if there is no precipitation falling.

“If you get caught in a snowstorm, drive slow and safe. Don’t try to hurry up to get through,” he adds.

Another hazard is driving without proper tires.

"Snow tires are a must … snow tires will prevent collisions,” Evans says emphatically.


DID YOU KNOW?

"Speed is probably a bigger killer on the highway than any other single factor,” says Al Evans.

He says accidents caused by black ice, poor road conditions or even other driver’s erratic driving could be avoided if speeds are reduced.

“People have died for the sake of five kilometres an hour,” he said, noting that a little extra speed can make a big difference.


And what about studded winter tires?

“Studded tires, in a small percentage of the time, are beneficial," he said.

“For the most part, they're actually counterproductive. When they’re on dry pavement, they’re actually less efficient."

Studded tires wear down the road, he adds, which can lead to hydroplaning situations.

Another common problem in the winter is when drivers approach intersections too quickly or do not give enough space to another vehicle.

“Vehicles don’t go out of control … persons lose control of the vehicle,” he said.

Even operators of four-wheel-drive vehicles need to take precautions.

“Four-wheel-drive vehicles are designed to allow you to move in snowy conditions or in bad traction, that’s the reason for the four-wheel-drive. It has absolutely no positive effect on stopping or controlling the vehicle on stops or turns."

He also noted that it’s important to back into a driveway or parking spot rather than drive in head-on, as accumulated snow mounds may make it impossible to back out safely.

Evan says that there are no secret tips or hints for driving safely in the winter.

“It’s common sense,” he says.

Read more about our Need for Speed, its risks and consequences

mark.squibb@thepacket.ca


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