Community leaders and emergency personnel gathered together Friday to urge drivers to get themselves and their vehicles ready for winter, if they haven't already, and offered up a flurry of tips in the process.
Province wide, there are an average 149 crashes resulting in injury or death over October, usually due to people driving too fast for conditions, and that total nearly doubles to 289 in December, said Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond.
Highways maintenance crews typically plow 2.8 million kilometres of road and spread 850 tonnes of sale and abrasive over a winter, Bond said, and noted up-to-date road conditions complete with webcams are available at the www.drivebc.ca website.
"The best trip is a prepared trip," said Bond, who was the province's Transportation Minister for a time.
Taking young drivers out for practice in empty parking lots when the snow first falls was suggested by city councillor and former school board chair Lyn Hall, who noted the city budgets $5 million a year for snow clearing with Prince George.
"It's a whole different mindset," Hall said of driving in winter conditions. "And I think when we have young drivers in our family, it's important to take them out and take the time to teach them and tell them what it's like to drive in winter conditions."
Noting 20 lives are typically lost to motor vehicle collisions over the course of a northern B.C. winter, North District RCMP Staff Sgt. Gord Flewelling said 90 per cent of crashes are due to driver error and urged motorists to drive defensively.
He also urged drivers to check their vehicles each and every time they go out, maintain a winter survival kit of candles, matches and a lighter, maintain good quality winter tires, keep headlights and taillights clear of debris and keep windshield washer reservoirs full.
"At intersections, start slowing down sooner," Flewelling said. "Stop so that you can see the licence plate in front of you. If you can no longer see that licence plate, you're too close. It allows that buffer should the road be icy."
Drive according to conditions and refrain from using a cellphone while driving, he also said.
"Turn that cellphone off, turn it to vibrate, put it in the back seat but take away the opportunity that you might go for that cellphone and answer it," Flewelling said.
Insurance Corporation of British Columbia injury services manager Andrew Warkentin reiterated ICBC's safe driving campaign theme, that there are plenty of excuses for being late but absolutely no excuses for speeding.
On that note, ICBC now has a light-hearted "excuse generator" available at icbc.com/drivesmart.
Further tips included replacing wiper blades and headlight bulbs before the winter season.
"Visibility is crucial," said Canadian Tire store manager David Shuvera. "Ninety per cent of driving decisions are made based on your vision."
Carrying booster cables, an emergency roadside kit and a reliable ice scraper were also advised.