Time change can wreak havoc on drivers

And that isn't the only reason accidents on B.C. roads spike right after the clocks fall back.

When hitting the highways and byways this winter

The clocks went back an hour last weekend, which can have an effect on drivers in more ways than one. Darkness coming earlier is one factor; but there is also the effect that the time change has on individuals.

“It depends on the person, how soon they adapt,” says ICBC’s Sam Corea. Concentration, alertness behind the wheel, and reaction time to potential hazards can all be affected as drivers adjust to the time change. “People need to get some rest and be aleåçrt.” Don’t assume you are more rested and alert on the mornings following the time change, as it can impact the quality of your sleep and affect your body’s internal clock.

He notes that crashes always go up a little after the time change, which is one factor. Others include the change in light, darkness coming earlier, poorer visibility, and more fog at this time of year. “Drivers need to adjust to conditions.”

Corea stresses that drivers need to drive according to the conditions, and make sure their speed level is appropriate. “Speed limits are set for dry, optimal conditions, but this isn’t July or August. There are different types of road conditions, and it’s not bright and clear. When it says you can drive x number of kilometres an hour, that’s for the best conditions available, and right now we don’t have that.”

Drivers are urged to make sure their vehicle is ready for winter weather. Clean your vehicle’s headlights and rear lights and make sure they are all working properly. Keep your windshield, windows, and mirrors clear, and make sure that you have enough windshield wiper fluid.

Winter tires are now required on many roads around the province. “If you have a crash on a road that requires winter tires, and you don’t have them, you’ll still be covered by insurance, but that could be a factor in assessing fault for the accident,” says Corea. “With winter tires you might not have had that outcome.”

Additional steps that drivers can take to keep themselves, and others, safe at this time of year include checking your tire pressure regularly; using your headlights whenever weather is poor and visibility is reduced; checking road and weather conditions before you drive; and making sure your vehicle is completely clear of snow, which includes the hood and roof. Blowing snow from your vehicle can be a hazard for people travelling behind you. “And keep your gas tank topped up,” advises Corea. “If you get stuck and you’re idling your car, you’re using gas.”

It is also a good idea to have a winter survival kit in your vehicle. A flashlight, spare batteries, matches, water, jumper cables, extra windshield wiper fluid, a shovel, and something to use for traction if you’re stuck in the snow (kitty litter is an effective tool) are all items you should consider carrying.

Most of all, says Corea, “Be aware and drive to the conditions. There were 300,000 crashes of all kinds across the province last year. Just because a speed limit is posted doesn’t mean that it’s the speed you should be travelling at.”

For more winter driving tips, go to www.shiftintowinter.ca.