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BCAA Annual Winter Driving Survey says pandemic stress has BC drivers planning to take fewer risks on the road

Burnaby, B.C., November 19, 2020 – This year’s annual BCAA Winter Driving Survey reveals a COVID silver lining when it comes to British Columbian motorists and safe winter driving.

Forty-four per cent of BC motorists say the pandemic has made them better planners overall, including when it comes to winter driving. Vancouverites appear to be better prepared than most and are taking fewer risks in general due to the pandemic. Of BC motorists, 58 per cent have already had their vehicles winterized, 54 per cent have their winter tires installed, 48 per cent have an emergency kit and 65 per cent have their vehicles stocked with COVID-19 essentials such as masks and hand sanitizer.

With most BC drivers ready for winter, the BCAA survey conducted by Insights West also reveals that the pandemic has affected attitudes toward winter driving. While 63 per cent of BC motorists say that they’re comfortable winter drivers, 46 per cent say that COVID-19 has taught them that bad things can and do happen and as a result they will be less likely to drive in bad weather.

Vancouverites aren’t as confident behind the wheel, with over half (52%), admitting to feeling nervous about driving in snow and ice conditions in comparison to just 27% motorist counterparts in the interior of BC. While they may have taken risks in the past, 36 per cent say that the pandemic has made life stressful enough without pushing their luck with risky road conditions.

At the same time, BCAA is still concerned about drivers who are not ready for poor conditions. Of those surveyed, 42 per cent said that they aren’t getting their vehicles prepared for bad weather or will wait until the last minute. Over a third (36%) of British Columbians admit to driving more since the outbreak of COVID-19, saying they feel safer in a car than other modes of transportation, with over half (56%) of Vancouverites feeling the same.

BCAA Automotive Manager Josh Smythe advises anyone who plans to drive anywhere in the province this season to be winter ready. “No matter where you live or where you’re going in BC, driving conditions can turn nasty in the blink of an eye.”

He adds that it isn’t just snow that can wreak havoc, but sleet, rain, darkness, wind, fog – all winter driving conditions can be dangerous. “Even a short trip to the grocery store can end badly without the right tires. Life can change very quickly, and I think we all know that now,” he says.

A long-term automotive expert and master mechanic, Smythe offers the following winter readiness tips:

  1. Prepare your vehicle to perform in winter.
    Get a complete vehicle check-up and install winter tires before cold weather sets in. Sooner is better. That’s particularly true right now with many repair shops reducing their hours to meet COVID-19 safety guidelines meaning appointments may take longer to get.
    Carry COVID essentials, a winter driving emergency kit, and chains in your car.
    Know that outings during the pandemic require more advanced planning – before you head out research business changes, such as operation hours and need for an appointment, locations for bathroom stops, etc.
  2. Drive for weather conditions.
    Before you drive: check road and weather conditions, clear snow and ice from windows and lights, defog all windows.
    Route plan to avoid trickier areas such as hills or narrow unplowed streets.
    As you drive: slow down, leave more room between you and the car ahead and use turn signals well in advance.
  3. Put safety first.
    Be honest about your driving skills and comfort levels—don’t drive in conditions when you don’t have the skills or if you’re nervous.
    Always have a plan b. Avoid the temptation to drive when you shouldn’t by planning other transport options.
    Carry emergency items in your car, including: highly visible winter outerwear, safety cones, battery jumper cables, a shovel, windshield scraper and brush, flashlight and batteries, warm clothes and boots, gloves, blanket, supply of non-perishable food and water, and a spare container of winter-grade washer fluid.

Driving less? Protect your vehicle.

Without regular driving, vehicle batteries can deteriorate over time. The usual advice is to drive at least one hour per week for best battery life.
Consider a battery maintainer to keep your battery charged. Wired into your vehicle’s battery and plugged into the wall, battery maintainers can be ordered online to limit outings.
Keep an eye on tire pressure. Do walk-arounds regularly to check each tire and use a tire gauge if you have one. If you have a deflated tire, add air if you can or change it before heading out for essential trips.

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About the BCAA Insights West survey

Results based on an online study conducted from November 4-8, 2020 among a representative sample of 815 adults in British Columbia, including 632 who have a valid BC driver’s license and regularly drive their own vehicle. The margin of error for this data —which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.4 percentage points for the total sample and +/-3.9 percentage points for the subsample of drivers, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies between totals are due to rounding.