October 24th, 2020

Take precautions on winter roads

By Mabell, Dave on January 8, 2020.

Public transit, pedestrians and other vehicular traffic makes their way through a heavy snowfall Tuesday morning downtown. More snow and freezing temperatures are expected heading into next week. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Dave Mabell

Lethbridge Herald


Who can forget? Last winter, Albertans faced the coldest temperatures since the Great Depression.

Now we’re facing another bout, with a bone-chilling -28 C on its way in the next week. And that’s in southern Alberta – the warmest part of the province.

For anyone who must travel, the Alberta Motor Association offers recommendations on how motorists can help prevent breakdowns. And how to respond to winter emergencies.

Every driver should bring an emergency kit, AMA officials say. It should include a blanket, warm clothing and gloves as well as emergency triangle, a flashlight with fresh batteries and a folding shovel.

Owners should also test their battery, and replace it if it’s service life is coming to an end. To save the battery’s power – and to ensure early start-up – the organization recommends plugging in the block heater at least four hours ahead of time when the overnight forecast is -15 C or worse.

A block heater timer can prove convenient. For any vehicle not equipped with a block heater, using synthetic oil can make starting easier.

For safety, the AMA urges drivers ensure their fuel tank is at least half full before heading out on the highway, and that they consider using gas-line antifreeze.

And winter tires are recommended, even for city driving, because they reduce stopping distance as well as providing better traction than all-season tires on ice and snow.

On the road, safety officials say drivers must continue to scan the road ahead, and keep a safe distance behind the next vehicle – allowing time to respond to the unexpected. On ice and snow, that should mean four to six seconds.

The AMA reminds drivers that the posted highway speeds are for ideal conditions – not common in winter. And that in winter, tires will lose one pound per square inch (PSI) of air pressure for every 5 C drop in temperature.

And in event of a breakdown, the AMA says, getting to a warm place is essential. Remaining inside a vehicle while waiting for help can be life-threatening.

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