Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Travelling Safely, With a Bit of Planning

Last month I was happy to have attended a car safety clinic sponsored by Toyota Canada. Yes, there was lots of safety information, including the opportunity to practice installing car seats, but there was also food and socialising and fun for the kids. And of course we got to check out some great 2012 Toyotas too.

Safety demonstrations and information were provided by the Ontario Safety League. This organisation was founded in 1913, in response to growing concerns about the safety of the increasing number of automobiles on the roads. Today they are recognised as as one of North America's leading traffic safety organizations, and work with the mandate of "safety through education." Their public education programs include Elmer the Safety Elephant, as well as programs specially designed for the transportation industry.

With colder months quickly approaching (I know, I'm sorry for bringing it up), it's a good time to start thinking about roadside emergencies and items we should prepare for our car safety kit. Of course, a car safety kit is a good idea at any time of the year, but especially with the added difficulties of winter driving it is best to be prepared.

Items to consider including:
1. Bright yellow safety vest in case you should become stranded on the side of the road and need to exit your car. Visibility is important!
2. Tire sealant to close punctures and stop leaks.
3. Properly inflated spare tire & jack
4. Booster cables
5. Flashlight
6. Maps and compass
7. First Aid kit
8. Blankets
9. Small shovel
10. Bag of kitty litter or sand to create traction
11. Extra windshield washer fluid.
12. Food and water

Brian J. Patterson, President & CEO of the Ontario Safety League, talks car safety.

@Clippo & @WeeWelcome proudly display their new safety vests

We're always very aware of the impact of the winter weather on Toronto roads and the increased potential for a collision, or even just for getting stuck on an icy patch of in a snowbank. When the weather turns cold we always make sure to keep the gas tank above half-full. And if heavy snow is forecast, we fill 'er up to ensure we will have enough fuel for the extended drive home from work. 

Scrapers are an obvious necessity, but we also stow a small shovel and bag of sand in the car. We have a first aid kit, at least one heavy blanket, some bottled water, and snacks. One thing to remember - be sure these personal safety and warmth items are easy to get to. Storing your blanket in your trunk won't do you much good if you're trapped in a snow bank and can't get to the trunk. And, if you don't normally wear hat and gloves, be sure to stow a set of these in your car as well, in case you need to get out to push or boost or shovel.

A few years ago, when Little Boo was 2, he and I got caught in a horrible storm trying to get home from work and daycare. What is normally about a 45 minute drive (maybe 60 on a bad day) took 5 1/2 hours. You heard that right. It was horrific and terrifying. Me and my toddler alone in the car. In the dark. With cars and trucks skidding everywhere all around us. And traffic barely moving. In some ways I was prepared - I had filled up the gas the night before in preparation, and there was a blanket if we needed it. But, after about the first hour and a half, I realised I had nothing to eat in the car, and only a half-frozen bottle of water to drink. Luckily I had a special toddler drinking cap for the water bottle, and Little Boo sucked on that most of the way home. Maybe the ice was a blessing in disguise!

I had a 4-wheel drive and I learned to drive in winter in St. John's, so my car and I made the most of the situation, and we got home safely in the end. (Here's a hint - if you are driving up a steep, slippery hill, don't brake unless absolutely necessary to avoid a collision. You need to keep driving with an even pressure on the gas. It's the only way you'll make it to the top.) But I learned a lesson that night about preparedness, particularly in terms of being prepared to entertain and soothe a small child in a difficult situation.

You can learn way more about safe winter driving (and other safety issues) from the experts at the OSL website.  Please give them a visit!

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