Q&A - Travel on Remote Roads

Q&A ImageWhat the safest thing is for a woman to do when her car breaks down on a remote road? Often our roads do not have cell coverage.



This question changed a bit when I asked what "remote" should be taken to mean. As posed originally, the question was meant to consider our less busy highways in B.C. but expanded to include truly remote areas such as logging roads or trails.

Let's deal with the simple case first, the less busy highways in our province.

From my point of view, the most important part is the planning:

  • Make sure that your vehicle is capable of the trip and is in good mechanical condition,
  • GPS is good, but useless if it breaks. Having a paper map as backup makes good sense.
  • DriveBC will help you plan and tell you about known conditions on route.
  • Carry a cell phone. Even a current cell phone without an active account can still dial 911.
  • Carry some tools and spare parts. A simple 25 cent fuse that fails can stop a vehicle in its tracks today.
  • Learn a bit about how your vehicle works and how to perform regular maintenance checks. If nothing else, make sure the owners manual is in the glove box.
  • Tell at least one person where you are going, when you are leaving and when you intend to arrive.
  • If you are stopping overnight, that is good information to pass along too. Consider having a hotel reservation confirmed before you leave.
  • If your plans change, contact that person and tell them.
  • Have an emergency road service plan. It can be part of your car insurance, new vehicle purchase or BCAA. This should give you someone trustworthy to call if something happens.
  • Dress for success. If you are traveling to an area that sees -30 degree temperatures make sure that you carry appropriate clothing to survive in it.
  • Set distance goals for reasonable speeds and hours of travel. Help is more available at 3:00 p.m. than 3:00 a.m.
  • Carry food, water and first aid supplies.

The execution is simpler:

  • Be adequately rested.
  • Be a safe driver.
  • Make regular stops to stretch, eat and enjoy.
  • Stick to your plan.

Traveling in truly remote areas where you are unlikely to encounter others places much more emphasis on self reliance:

  • Don't travel alone.
  • Carry self rescue equipment: axe, saw, chains, winch, shovel, etc.
  • Carry survival supplies: food and clothing, fire lighting, shelter, water treatment, compass.
  • Communication equipment such as satellite phone, amateur (ham) radio, GMRS (family) radio, resource road or LADD channel capable radio & appropriate licence.
  • GPS and paper map that allows you to use GPS co-ordinates to locate yourself.
  • Writing tools to allow you to leave legible notes for others. Remember rain & snow when picking these.
  • Stick to your plan!

Remote Roads

If you travel these roads on a regular basis I would suggest getting yourself a FM radio with the frequencies used in your area and if they have repeaters that covers the road put those in also. You will have to get permission. I have never heard of a company refusing if you are putting the frequencies in for safety. Satellite phones normally work but you will find dead spots. You didn't say which area of the province you are traveling but there are areas that still have radio telephone coverage that you can connect to with the one FM radio.

It sounds like you know the roads but never trust GPS for anything other than main highways. As for Drivebc.ca and 511.alberta.ca for less traveled roads think of them as history papers.

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