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​ICBC warning drivers to prepare for winter conditions across B.C. this long weekend

February 7, 2014


It may be sunny in the Lower Mainland but residents on Vancouver Island, Southern Interior and northern B.C. are experiencing snowy conditions today to start off the Family Day long weekend. With potential snowfall also in the forecast for the Lower Mainland, ICBC is asking drivers to prepare for all of the challenging winter road conditions they may encounter – snow, slush, freezing rain and black ice.

According to an ICBC survey, seven out of 10 drivers admit to feeling less safe or more frustrated on the roads when winter conditions hit. On average, 19,900 crashes occur every February in B.C.

“Winter weather is forecasted in some regions of B.C. this long weekend so consider re-scheduling a planned road trip and stay off the roads if needed,” said Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “If you must drive this Family Day long weekend, make sure your vehicle is properly equipped, check so you know what to expect on your route and adjust your speed for the conditions you encounter.”

“Driving is a serious responsibility and you need to be prepared for the unexpected during winter road conditions,” said Suzanne Anton, Attorney General and Minister of Justice. “Make sure you factor extra time in your travel plans to account for the weather so that you can get to your destination safely. Leave your phone alone and avoid other unnecessary distractions to keep our roads safe for everyone this holiday weekend.”

“If road conditions become so challenging that police ask the public to stay off the roads, don’t be foolish and ignore the request – even if you have winter tires,” said Chief Officer Neil Dubord, Chair of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Committee. “These requests are for everyone’s safety and allow emergency vehicles to help those in need and city crews to attend to hard hit areas. Help make British Columbia’s roads the safest in North America.”

“Drivers should be prepared for unpredictable road conditions at this time of year – we could experience black ice one day and slush the next,” said John Dickinson, ICBC’s director of road safety. “Whether you’re driving in snow, ice, slush or rain, you need to slow down. Posted speed limits are for ideal conditions only. You should also leave at least twice the normal braking distance so you have time to react to the unexpected and give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination.”

Here are ICBC’s tips for driving in winter weather:

  • Consider alternatives: With potential snowfall in the forecast for Monday, roads could still be challenging for your Tuesday morning commute so consider alternatives ahead of time. Can you take transit, work from home, carpool with a friend whose vehicle is prepared and is a confident driver or at least wait until the road conditions have improved and crews have cleared the roads?
  • Get prepared: If you will be driving, we recommend using winter tires in snow and ice for your safety and the safety of other drivers. Visit to check road conditions for your entire route, possible road closures and which B.C. highways require drivers to use winter tires or carry chains.
  • Pre-trip check: Check your tire pressure regularly – pressure drops quickly in colder conditions. It’s also a good idea to keep your gas tank at least half-full to prevent freezing in extreme temperatures, top up your windshield wiper fluid and pack an emergency kit in your vehicle in case you get stranded or stuck. Clear off any snow that has accumulated on your vehicle so that it doesn’t fall off while driving.
  • Driving in snow: The key to winter driving is to be slow and steady – avoid unexpected sudden movements that could cause you to skid. That means you should accelerate gently, steer and turn slowly and gradually, and brake slowly and early. Anticipate turns, stops and lane changes well in advance. Use low beam lights and don’t use cruise control on slippery roads. You should also be aware of the differences between using standard and anti-lock brakes (ABS). For standard brakes, pump them gently; for ABS, apply steady pressure and you’ll feel the brakes pulse (this is normal).
  • If you skid or hit black ice: Black ice is virtually impossible to see ahead of time. That’s why it’s so important to slow down and keep your distance from other vehicles – so you can see how the vehicles around you are moving on the road. At this time of year, black ice often forms as snow begins to melt during warmer daytime hours and is commonly found on roads with shaded areas, bridges, overpasses and intersections where car exhaust and packed snow freeze quickly. If you start to skid, ease off the accelerator and look and steer smoothly in the direction you want to go. Be careful not to over-steer and don’t brake – this could make the situation worse. You may need to repeat this manoeuvre several times until you regain control.
  • Dealing with slush: When snow melts, it can also build up on your vehicle’s headlights and in the wheel wells. This can affect your ability to see and steer so you should clear this off before driving. When driving in slushy conditions, watch out for ridges of slush that can build up between lanes. To change lanes, wait for an area that has the least amount of slush, signal well in advance and slowly complete your lane change.
  • Keep clear: Use extreme caution when approaching highway maintenance vehicles on the road including plows, salt and sand trucks and never pass on the right. Be patient and maintain a safe following distance – these vehicles throw up snow and spray which can make it difficult to see.
  • Have an emergency plan: If you get stuck or stranded, remain calm and stay with your vehicle for safety. If you have a cell phone and it’s an emergency, call 911. Otherwise, call for roadside assistance. Use your emergency kit for items like blankets and food.

For a video on how to install tire chains, visit Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s website.

Regional statistics:

  • On average, 13,000 crashes occur every February in the Lower Mainland.
  • On average, 2,600 crashes occur every February on Vancouver Island.
  • On average, 2,800 crashes occur every February in the Southern Interior.
  • On average, 1,400 crashes occur every February in the North Central region.

Media contact:
Kathy Taylor