Courtesy // Jan Baborak

Steering into the Spring Season

By AMA Staff

Driving in the springtime can be a breath of fresh air after a long cold winter. It’s exciting to get out there once the ice and snow are gone and enjoy the drive. But no matter the weather, it’s always important to stay vigilant: spring presents unique driving challenges due to unpredictable weather. It’s vital that drivers continue to follow road safety rules and keep vehicles in top working condition. Here are some important things to consider for spring driving:

  • Keep your vehicle ready to face any kind of weather. Check that all exterior lights are clean and functioning, ensure tires are inflated to the proper psi, and keep winter tires on until the temperature is consistently above 7 °C.
  • Watch for more pedestrians (who doesn’t love a nice spring walk?). And even with the extra daylight, remember you still need to be cautious in school and playground zones. Spring also means an increase in vulnerable road users, such as cyclists, motorcyclists and maintenances crews working at the side of the road. Drive with care.
  • Be attentive to wildlife, especially on the highways, as animals emerge from hibernation and search for food.
  • Be aware of meltwater and sudden rains that can lead to floods or sheets of water that can cause your vehicle to hydroplane. To prevent this, reduce speed and drive slightly to the left or right of ruts on the road. Avoid flooded streets and large puddles, as deep water can cause an engine stall.

Some springtime vigilance on the road can help you truly enjoy the season—safely.

Don’t risk it: Safe driving means cutting out your risky behaviours

Many drivers think clear conditions mean safe roads. But the snow melting doesn’t reduce the risks of driving, and in fact, most collisions in Alberta occur in dry, good weather conditions.

“There’s a misconception that driving suddenly becomes safer in summer,” says Dominic Schamuhn, manager of advocacy at the Alberta Motor Association. “But the reality is that every day of the year, driving is one of the riskiest things we do.”

All year, you can increase your safety by avoiding risky driving behaviours. And when it comes to driving safely, two notable factors are completely in your control—speeding and driving distracted.

Speeding: Speeding was the top concern of AMA members, according to the results of a recent AMA Member Opinion Survey. And they’re right to think so—in Alberta, more than one in four fatal collisions involves speeding. But research by AMA also shows many drivers don’t abide by the rules they claim to support—while 82 percent of Albertans say that speeding is “never acceptable” on residential roads, 52 percent admit to doing it anyway.

Schamuhn notes that one of the reasons speeding is risky is because it increases the distance that you need in order to stop safely, even in perfect weather conditions. Stay mindful of the speed limit and, if you’re on a highway, you can consider taking advantage of cruise control.

Distracted driving: Technology and other distractions are a reality nowadays, but when you’re behind the wheel, driving needs your full attention. Whether it’s planning your route, sending that last-minute text or queuing up your road trip playlist, Shamuhn recommends drivers look after those tasks before they get on the road, “so you’re able to dedicate your full attention to the task at hand, which is safely operating your vehicle.”

Even though 83 percent of Albertans perceive distracted driving to be a threat to their person safety, fully 26 percent of them think they can do it without risk, which Schamuhn notes isn’t true. “The reality is, no matter how confident a drive you are, safe driving requires your full attention.”