Winter Driving and how to survive it…
I am a road warrior. I love a road trips and new adventures. There is something awesome about loading up the gear, getting on the road and starting a long drive to anywhere new. No matter what the reason for a road trip, they usually take you away from your regular day to day obligations and it is the start of something new!
This time of year the excitement can come a little too soon and ruin that road trip fever. Adverse winter driving conditions can sneak up out of no where and here in BC Canada a person can happily be driving around at sea level and in less than two hours have climbed 4000 feet into the Highway Thru Hell.
I thrive on a drive through nature’s nastiest temper tantrums. But I also equipped my vehicle with the best snow tires and I carry chains (real chains not cables) for all four tires. I am the minority as many people find themselves driving in poor conditions only on rare occasions. Proper winter vehicle prep is expensive and that brings up some very debatable winter driving topics.
WHAT IS A WINTER TIRE?
This one is easy; if your tire does not have the three peaked winter snowflake on it, IT IS NOT A WINTER TIRE. END OF STORY.
Your tires and the inch or so that actually touches the ground is the only thing keeping you on the road. In the event that you find yourself upside down in a ditch you’ll wonder why you ever considered saving money on tires. The first time you try a set of good winter tires you will be amazed at how much calmer and relaxing your winter drive will become.
WHAT TIRE IS LEGAL?
I recently got into a debate with someone about what the Province of British Columbia deems to be legal for use on BC highways in winter conditions. As it turns I did not know the answer, because winter tires (snowflake) are not required for winter driving on BC highways!
A tire designated with M+S (mud + snow) is legal. This I found very surprising as I would argue that 95% of vehicles sold have tires with the M+S symbol on them on the factory tires. If you want my opinion, most of these tires are designed to be quite and fuel efficient and are all but useless in winter driving conditions.
The final issue is tread depth. Your winter or M+S tire must have at least 3.5mm of tread depth to be legal in winter conditions.
If you happen to drive a vehicle that wears tires without the M+S symbol then simply carrying chains does not make you legal. And it shouldn’t as was proven here where a Ferrari completely totaled itself after hitting black ice and spinning out at 60 just kph in town.
It is amazing to me how many people travel through some of the worlds most treacherous highways without the proper gear. Carry warm clothes, a blanket, water proof matches, jumper cables, a tow strap, a spare tire (and tools), a flashlight and a first aid kit at a minimum. You’ll likely never use this stuff and therefore it will last you for many years sitting in a tote waiting for your next road trip.
LOOSE ITEMS KILL!
When I say “ROAD TRIP”, what comes to mind? A picture is of the vehicle loaded with Rufus the dog jammed in between, right?.
In the event that the worst happens (and it will to someone) a 2 liter bottle of pop, tool kit or those chains you thought made you legal will instantly become deadly if they impact a person during an accident. People have survived amazingly deadly highway accidents all because nothing struck their head. Secure all loose items, put them in the trunk, in a secured tote in your SUV or in a cargo carrier on your vehicles roof and be safe out there!