Getting behind the wheel on a bitterly cold day can be a daunting task for any motorist.
While road and weather conditions can create a white-knuckle scenario, the top instructor for the Alberta Motor Association (AMA) says there are clear benefits to driver training in sub-zero temperatures.
"If you can drive in winter, you can drive anytime of the year," said Martin Wiseman, chief instructor at AMA ."It's an awesome opportunity to get your licence or brush up on your driving skills."
"The dynamic has changed slightly since the pandemic as demand for driver training with AMA has dramatically increased. Hence, last winter proved to be as busy as the summer months and this year is looking to be much the same," he added.
AMA driver training, which includes a 50-50 mixture of street and off-road sessions, is tailored to suit the needs of each student. See ama.ab.ca/driving-school for more.
"We teach people how to be gentler with the controls and look further ahead," he said. In any season, there are senior-specific courses through AMA that include a mature and senior driver refresher, an in-car senior driver evaluation, beginners lessons and an RV training course.
While AMA offers a 12-point safety tip sheet for winter, Wiseman says there are three advisories drivers tend to overlook most frequently, topped by tailgating.
Describing tailgaters as “motorists who don't increase their following distance”, Wiseman says a minimum of 10 seconds is the safe distance between a driver and the vehicle in front.
"What's the benefit of driving too close? There is no good reason," he said.
The most recent Alberta Highway statistics show 31.7 per cent of winter driving accidents are rear end collisions.
The other two prominent winter violations are not having an emergency kit in the vehicle and not allowing enough time to clear ice and snow before driving.
"You have to be visible. Use a snow brush and give the vehicle time to warm up. Proactive driving starts before you even head out," he said.
We're all told to install winter tires at this time of year, and while they do provide a safer alternative once the temperature drops below 7C, Wiseman cautions drivers to understand the limits.
“It does not mean the tires have this magnetic grip – it’s still down to the driver. "
A recent survey shows 67 per cent of Alberta drivers use winter tires.
While there have been supply chain issues for winter tires this fall, three companies contacted by Alberta Prime Times report they have not had any issues yet.
"We anticipate sufficient supply to meet our customers’ needs for the winter season,” said Yves Richard, senior director of products and pricing for Fountain Tire. He added, “Selection may be impacted more than overall supply.”
At OK Tire, a spokesperson says they’ve moved product across the country to keep up with demand.
"OK Tire has warehouse locations across the country so inventory can be easily shifted," said marketing director Joseph Wuest. "Overall demand is expected to be higher this year as more people come out of COVID-19."
The manager of the Trail Tire outlet on 99 Street in Edmonton says they’ve been able to keep up with demand.
“We’ve been really busy, but we’ve had no supply issue yet,” said Derek McKenzie, adding most customers started ordering winter tires early in the fall.