As the Coquihalla continues to make headlines with conditions that range from pretty awful to insanely awful, it may be time to review ways to increase your safety when traveling over mountain passes.
Your best bet, if possible, is to not to travel the Coquihalla at all when road conditions are very bad. However, if a trip over must be made in the seemingly short periods when the highway is actually open, here are some tips to get you safely to the other side and back.
Be sure check road conditions before heading out, and be sure to tell a family member or friend that you’re traveling, where you’re traveling, and your expected time of arrival.
Checking your vehicle
Fill ‘er up. It’s better to have a full tank of gas. Not only do you ensure that you don’t run out, but also, in winter, a partially filled gas tank is more likely to collect condensation.
Check the air in your tires. Tires that hopefully are snow tires, not all-season.
Use lock lubricant for door locks to prevent freezing.
Check that all your lights are working.
Packing for a trip over the mountains
Make sure your phone is fully charged.
Carry chains (and make sure you know how to use them, practice ahead of time).
Emergency kit. Make sure your kit includes candles and matches, as candles will generate a surprising amount of heat in your vehicle if you are stranded.
One or more blankets.
Winter outerwear in case you need to get out of your car in a situation.
If road conditions are bad, drive accordingly. Stay in the traveling lane and slow down. And keep more distance between yourself and the car in front of you.
Try to keep calm when driving in bad conditions. Stress can cause you to react too quickly, ie slamming on the brakes or cranking the steering wheel.
If you skid, remain calm. Ease off the gas pedal, and steer into the skid.
If you break down
Pull over as far off the road as is safe.
Turn on your 4-way flashers.
Notify police of your whereabouts, and if possible, remain in your vehicle.
Changing a tire or putting on chains
If you need to stop to put on chains or change a tire, be hyper-aware of traffic around you. Remember that chains only go on drive wheels, ie if your car is front-wheel drive, the chains go on front, if your car is rear-wheel drive, they go on back. Be wary of passing vehicles when putting on your chains.
Remember that staying home (or, if already en route, finding hotel accommodations) remains your best option when mountain road conditions are very bad, but if you must travel, taking reasonable precautions in consideration of conditions can make a difficult trip a little easier . . . and safer.