TORONTO, ONT.: Most of Canada has now been hit with the year’s first snowfall, creating slick conditions for drivers.
“For any industry that relies on driving, whether it’s delivery, shipping or sales, the risk of accidents in winter is going to be a bigger deal for them,” says Jan Chappel, senior technical specialist with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.
Chappel says businesses can adjust to those hazards by creating flexible driving schedules with both employees and clients. There are also driving schools that offer extra practice driving in the winter.
Maintenance is important.
“Companies should make sure their vehicles are kept in good condition and are equipped with snow tires,” Chappel recommends.
When it comes to winterizing vehicles, some parts of the country are more prepared than others, according to a recent study by the Rubber Association of Canada.
The association compared winter tire shipments with vehicle registrations and found winter tire use varied from coast to coast.
Quebec, which has mandated the use of winter tires since 2008, topped other provinces with a 98 per cent usage rate.
In Ontario, only 37 per cent of vehicles had winter tires.
Rolling into last place with a mere 17 per cent was Manitoba, which also had the most vehicle injuries per 100,000 licensed drivers, according to Transport Canada’s most recent data. There were 1,113.0 injuries in Manitoba in 2007, compared to 977.3 in Quebec’s and 749.0 in Ontario.
The national average was 48 per cent.
Using winter tires is one way of improving road safety, but there are other tips as well, according to the Canada Safety Council:
- Equip your car with a brush, scraper, small shovel, battery jumper cables and a flashlight.
- If your car is skidding, go against your instincts and instead turn into the skid and accelerate. This transfers the weight of your car from the front to the rear.
- Steer clear of cruise control in messy weather.
- Don’t pump the brakes if you have an anti-lock breaking system. Apply ongoing pressure and let the system do its work.
Ian Jack, managing director of public affairs at the Canadian Automobile Association, says companies can also prevent collisions just by slowing down.
He says coming out of a recession, every business is pressed for time and there’s a pressure to be as productive as possible.
“But your employees are a whole lot less productive if they’ve been in an accident than if the happen to make one fewer call on a day when conditions aren’t good,” Jack says.
Workers should also avoid using their blackberries on the road, especially in gritty weather.
He says texting and driving has surpassed drinking and driving as the number one concern worrying Canadians on the road.
“Take your time responding to business emails. If it means you don’t answer someone right away and they have to wait another half an hour until you pull over, that’s ok,” he says.
Winter tire use across Canada: how provinces stack up:
- Quebec 98
- New Brunswick 60
- Nova Scotia 56
- Newfoundland and Labrador 44
- Ontario 37
- Alberta 31
- Prince Edward Island 27
- Saskatchewan 23
- B.C. 23
- Manitoba 17