Be Prepared for Trouble!

Safety TrianglesIt's easy to become complacent. I remember putting chains on my father's tow truck and plowing snow with the front bumper at 30 mph to go and drag a hapless motorist back onto the highway. I also remember my time in northern BC where one didn't leave the driveway without a shovel, tow rope, extra winter clothing, tools and a collection of small spare parts at this time of year.

So, how am I doing today here on Vancouver Island? Two weeks ago my normal 20 minute commute turned into a 2 hour journey that ended 25 meters short of my driveway in about 25 cm of snow. Would I have made it all the way if I had winter tires on my truck instead of all season tires with a blocky tread? Maybe, but I'll bet that if I had a set of chains the trip would have been one hour or less instead of 2 and I would not have had to rely on the push of two neighbours. Mental note to self, research and buy a good set of chains after the stores recover from the panic buying of last week.

Yes, I still carry booster cables, a first aid kit, tools, spares, flares, triangles, blanket, cell phone, ham radio and I had a shovel with me, but I didn't have a tow rope nor those chains that I might only use once a year if I'm unlucky. I also stopped carrying candles when I left the north.

Sadly, this left me unable to look after myself that day. It may also have left me unable to provide help for others. Having had that expected of me for 25 years leaves me feeling kind of foolish now. I know that I can't expect "the government" to provide everything but as I said, it easy to become complacent. Time to smarten up and like the Scout I once was, be prepared!

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Submitted by E-Mail

As former traveling commercial traveler from Saskatchewan for 22 years my employer always reminded their traveling staff the emergency supplies to carry in the car for winter driving. We did not have cell phones in those days. In Saskatchewan black ice was not as prevalent as it happens in BC. However many of the city streets at intersections were often the equivalent as black ice. In slippery braking conditions I always slipped the transmission in neutral before applying the brakes. I found you have much better control and seems to prevent a lot of the vehicle from sliding sideways etc. What is your opinion on this as with the recent street conditions we have had it still works for me? I have found you have better control of the vehicle, the braking distance is shortened.

Coasting in Neutral

I have had many drivers tell me this over the years, particularly when an automatic transmission is involved. There is only one prohibition involved that I can think of in the Motor Vehicle Act:

Coasting down grade

197 When traveling down grade a driver must not coast with the gears of the vehicle in neutral or the clutch disengaged.

I think that this was designed to prevent a runaway vehicle in the event that the driver could not get the vehicle back into gear.

Submitted by E-Mail

Years (many) ago I was on the road for the Manitoba Telephone System & carried some of the items you mention in order to be prepared in case of being stuck over night in the cold. That was a long time before the modern communications were available. I must say your list is far more comprehensive than I had thought of long ago.

Submitted by E-Mail

One other suggestion, instead of a tow rope I always used to (sorry, past tense) a come along with a couple of nylon slings. The come along could be used around a tree or other inanimate object and could be used for pulling a vehicle out of distress much like a winch but easily powered by arms. It helped me out a few times.

Submitted by E-mail

FYI, some tips that we have developed or adopted over the years. I suggest that all motorists consider carrying a small axe as part of their winter equipment. If stuck, obviously used to make a fire if wanted or necessary. It can also be used as a hammer or used to chip away compact/ice to make clearance for a jack under an axle to change a tire. And, etc. We carry squirt bottles (i.e. Windex dispensers) filled with windshield washer fluid. The winter variety is rated for -40C or so and is ideal for cleaning head/tail lamps (including while enroute), washing and de-icing windshields especially around the perimeter where wipers do not go, de-icing wiper blades, etc. Candles. Prepared candle kits are not easy to come by so I make my own. I use a 250 gm coffee can, fill with candles and put a couple of books of paper matches inside plastic sandwich wrappers in the can on top of the candles. I find that many non-smokers do not have matches on board and some new vehicles are no longer fitted with cigarette lighters. Candles can be obtained from many sources rather inexpensively. I find most of mine at yard sales, usually for next to nothing. Longer candles can be cut off so that they are part of an inch short of the length of the can so the lid can fit easily back on. Carry in the passenger compartment if possible. Many people I have spoken to do not realize newer vehicles are fitted with a fuel shut-off valve and even a moderate impact with a snow bank that does not damage the vehicle, can trip this fuel valve. No fuel, no motor operation and hence, no heat! And frequently it needs a mechanic's attention to get this valve re-opened. On our rural roads those candles might just save the day if an hour or so passes before another motorist happens by when it is sub-zero outside.

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