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National Safe Driving Week: December 1 to 7, 2009 - Who has your back on the road this winter?

November 26, 2009

OTTAWA Canadians know winter weather all too well, and with that comes dicey driving conditions. Winter driving can sometimes be a daunting task, especially when conditions are snowy or icy. During winter months, Canadians experience much higher collision rates than at other times of the year. Winter driving can be one of the biggest challenges, so it is essential to adjust driving behaviour with the change in seasons.

December 1st to 7th is National Safe Driving Week and Canada Safety Council encourages all Canadian drivers to take precautions on the road throughout the winter months. Being prepared is the best way to ensure for safe winter driving. This includes maintaining your vehicle for optimum performance, equipping it with necessary safety items and adjusting driving habits consistent with the challenging conditions. New technologies, built into newer vehicles, can also assist in making your winter driving safer than ever. Technology can be considered your own personal safety blanket in the coming months.

Electronic Stability Control
Electronic Stability Control (ESC) has the potential to significantly reduce single vehicle road crashes. It is a safety technology that helps drivers avoid crashes by reducing the likelihood of skidding. ESC sensors compare the direction of the steering wheel to the direction the vehicle is going. When they are not the same, and the vehicle begins to skid, ESC applies the brakes to one or more wheels, and/or reduces engine power to help keep the vehicle under control and keeps you heading in the right direction. Approximately 48 per cent of serious road crashes in Canada are the result of loss of control. Studies show that Electronic Stability Control (ESC) could reduce these by 20 to 40 per cent. The only way to get ESC is to buy a new or used vehicle that is already equipped with it. The US and Canada will soon mandate ESC in motor vehicles

Anti-lock Braking System
Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) is a system that allows you to steer while braking hard, while preventing your wheels from locking up. When wheel sensors detect lock-up, the system relieves enough pressure to keep the tires rolling, while you brake hard. You will feel the brake pedal rapidly pulse back against your foot and may hear some mechanical noise. DO NOT lift your foot from the brake or pump the pedal. Practice these techniques away from traffic before you need to use them.

Traction Control System (TCS)
Traction control is your best ally to get going in winter conditions, as it regulates the power supplied to the wheels of a vehicle. Check your owners manual to find out how best to use your traction control to get you out of slippery situations. Two systems are prevalent; one using the ABS system at lower speeds, and one using the transmission and engine management to provide better traction when you find yourself stuck on ice or snow.

Four/all-wheel drive
Four-wheel drive powers all four wheels and provides better start-ups, especially in wintry regions that have hills and/or poor snow removal. Heavy-duty four-wheel drive is often overkill; all-wheel drive, which is lighter and cheaper, is totally automatic and may be more effective. You will still need snow tires on your vehicle as braking and cornering is not enhanced by 4-wheel drive.

Maintaining your Vehicle
You should get a complete car engine tune-up in the fall to prepare for the winter driving season. All systems should be checked: exhaust, fuel, and heating and cooling systems. Brakes, lights, car batteries, tires, windshield wipers and fluid, are all especially important to check before venturing out in winter conditions.

Check tire pressure often, at least once a month and especially before highway driving. Properly inflated, high quality winter tires will give you the best traction on winter roads. Make sure that your four snow tires are for Canadian winters, look for a snowflake-inside-mountains symbol on the tire sidewalls. It is now law in Quebec to have four winter tires on your car in the winter.

Adjusting Driver Habits
When weather presents challenging conditions, such as a winter storm that minimizes the view of the road ahead or early morning ice patches that are undetectable, CSC asks motorists to plan ahead and take more time driving to their destination. When poor weather conditions are predicted, postpone your trip if possible. You may not be able to control the weather and road conditions but you can control the speed at which you drive. Clear all snow off your car before you leave. Also, leaving plenty of buffer room between your car and the car you are following can make the difference between having a collision or not.

Equip your Vehicle
Having an emergency car kit on hand could mean the difference between getting stuck in the snow for hours, or getting back on the road safely. Your emergency car kit should include: ice scraper and brush, shovel, gritty substance such as sand or kitty litter, booster cables, flashlight, antifreeze and extra washer fluid. Also include items such as warm blankets, fresh water, matches, first aid kit, and a well-charged cell phone. Of course you should also have a properly inflated spare tire, wheel wrench and tire jack. When travelling longer distances, let someone know where you are going and when to expect you.

Canada Safety Council also reminds all Canadians to buckle-up and keep all driving distractions to a minimum on the road this winter.

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For more information contact:
Valerie Powell
Communications and Media Coordinator
Canada Safety Council
Phone: 613-739-1535 ext. 228

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