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Behind-the-Wheel

Know before you go

February was not a good one for many drivers in B.C. with the weather-related closures of three major east-west highways.

Contractors generally keep our roads in good condition for safe driving, but when weather overwhelms their resources, it should not be a surprise when closures result.

If you choose to travel during bad weather, your mantra should be Know Before You Go, or perhaps even simply Don't Go.

One news report I saw found a television reporter interviewing eastbound motorists who were stuck in a closure waiting for the Coquihalla Highway to reopen.

The reporter asked one person if they had sufficient notice of the situation.

There was a short pause and then a shake of the head.

No, "they" could have done a better job was the response.

Another said they were keeping hunger at bay by eating chips and cookies.

This significant weather event should not have been a surprise to anyone.

It was not the first storm in recent days and every weather report I saw in the days prior offered warnings.

DriveBC had a travel warning posted on its website; social media was full of stories.

I wonder what the overhead variable message sign had to say for points east of Hope, but I'm guessing that it was not encouraging everyone with a report of good winter driving conditions.

Having chosen to continue the voyage after some consideration, the first responsibility for your health and safety falls to you.

Proper winter clothing, food, water, sleeping bags or blankets, flashlights, candles and matches are a few personal supplies to have along.

True winter tires, a shovel, tow rope, triangles, flares and some spares would be good choices for your vehicle.

Stopping in Hope to top up the tank would have been a good choice to make, too, especially if you don't follow the precautionary habit of operating on the top half of the tank.

Regardless of your preparation, continued assessment of conditions is mandatory.

If you anticipate problems, then that is the time to either turn around and head home or at least find the nearest motel.

Being warm and dry with a full stomach beats sitting on the highway idling your fuel away wondering what will happen.

In a major weather event like this one, "they" are overwhelmed trying to do their jobs to keep you moving or get you moving again.

"They" don't have the time or the resources to hold your hand and make sure that you are all right. If you need it, rescue could be a long time coming.

First and foremost, it's all up to you.

Story URL: http://www.drivesmartbc.ca/miscellaneous/know-you-go

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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

To learn more, visit DriveSmartBC



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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