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Winter driving safety: Studies show many collisions are avoidable

01.15.2013 Safety

It’s that time of year again, when fall activities such as raking leaves, storing the patio furniture and packing away the summer toys remind us that a prairie winter is on the horizon.

Each day, STARS medical staff witness the tragic outcomes of motor vehicle collisions in our communities. Nearly 50 per cent of our missions are to transport trauma patients — many of whom have been involved in traffic collisions.

These collisions have significant impact on the health, economy and social fabric of a community.  The vast majority of collisions are preventable. Experts estimate 90 per cent of collisions are caused by driver error. As well, strategies that address seat-belt use, sober driving, speed reduction and  distracted driving could go a long way toward reducing fatalities, injuries and permanent disabilities.

During the winter, drivers need to be prepared for any type of weather and adjust their approach accordingly. Travelling at speeds that exceed the road conditions can lead to loss of control, as can travelling during blizzards or on black ice.

Evasive driving maneuvers, rapid acceleration, and emergency braking all rely on contact between four small areas of the tire and the road surface. This so-called contact patch is the only connection between the road and your vehicle, which is truly amazing.

As we head into winter, following these simple actions can help to optimize your driving safety:

  • Select tires for your vehicle appropriate for anticipated road conditions. A recent study by the Quebec Ministry of Transport shows a proper winter tire can improve braking by up to 25 per cent over an all-season radial tire and can improve collision avoidance  by about 38 per cent;
  • Regularly check your tire inflation pressure. At least twice a month is recommended;
  • Periodically inspect the tread-wear and general condition of your tires;
  • Maintain proper tire-balance and wheel alignment.

You may be amazed to learn that STARS’ newest helicopter, the AW139, has retractable landing gear with tires, as opposed to the familiar skids used on our BK117 helicopter. Undoubtedly, our engineers and pilots will be completing regular inspections to ensure our vehicle’s tires are in top condition.

For safer winter driving, you should do the same.

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