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Drivers advised to keep space, speed and vision in mind on winter roads

With Mother Nature delivering a dusting of snow, Grande Prairie residents are being reminded to dust off their winter driving skills.

Chief instructor for Drivers Education with AMA Mark Pasternac says when it comes to driving in winter conditions, the three main things to keep in mind are space, vision, and speed. He explains that the faster the speed, the harder it is to make a quick stop, so travelling at a lower speed or at a speed that is adaptive to the weather conditions helps reduce the chance of losing control. Space also plays a part; when travel conditions are ideal, it is recommended to have a following distance of two to three seconds between vehicles, but when the conditions are less than ideal, it is suggested to have a distance of at least three seconds between vehicles.

“The simplest way of looking at this is you want to see and be seen. With more room in front of us and more following distance in the winter, it allows you to look at not the first car but the third, the fourth, or the fifth one down the street or plan a block ahead as best you can.” Pasternac says. “The bonus to all of that when it comes to vision is to make yourself as visible as possible to everybody. The simplest things you can do is turn on the full headlights, not the automatics, the full headlights, getting the taillights going and the headlights, even in the day.”

He adds that because Alberta is teased with every version of weather, drivers build up and get comfortable with certain habits, and when a change needs to be made in a quick second, sometimes drivers’ brains don’t make the shift fast enough.

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“So the simplest way of looking at conditions, in general, is the minute you see things change on the road for surface or vision, or if it is wet or snowy or icy, just take your time and slow things down.”

Pasternac says, sometimes, when driving on wet, snowy, or icy roads, it may feel as if the vehicle is doing a good job and has a good grip, but that can change quickly.

“The moment too much pressure is applied for breaking or steering, you’ll find out very quickly that your wheels have that layer between them where they can’t get the grip they need, and that’s when we lose control.”

His advice is that as soon as the road looks different, whether from snow or ice, the best choice is to slow down.

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