A crash tied up the Malahat highway earlier this week. (Facebook/Milaine Berard)

‘Laws of physics apply to everybody’: RCMP warn drivers as winter hits B.C.

ICBC reports crashes are up 44% in parts of the province

Extreme winter spreading across much of the province in the past couple weeks has lead to an increase in crashes across B.C., according to ICBC data released Wednesday.

The auto insurer said crashes are at an “all time high” in February, the month sees 340 casualty-involved crashes from drivers driving carelessly.

The Coquihalla has already been closed twice this week, and crashes have held up Highway 1 and Highway 3 in the Okanagan-Shuswap area.

READ MORE: Coquihalla reopens after ambulance rear-ended while paramedics help patients

READ MORE: Hay bales litter road as crash closes Hwy. 1

Towing companies have been kept busy on Vancouver Island’s busy Malahat highway and on roads in the Lower Mainland as unprepared drivers slide around corners and down hills.

In B.C.’s southern Interior, calls to ICBC’s claims service were up 44 per cent this Tuesday, compared to the week before.

RCMP say many of these crashes come because drivers get too confident driving in the snow and ice.

“Some individuals have been distracted and some people are not prepared, or at least their vehicles are not prepared” for winter conditions, said Cpl. Mike Halskov of the B.C. RCMP’s traffic services.

Halskov warned drivers to “not get overconfident in terms of the conditions you think your vehicle can drive in.”

“The laws of physics apply to everybody equally,” he noted.

READ MORE: ICBC, Police release tips for drivers in snowy conditions

Tires should have either a snowflake or be rated for mud and snow, Halskov said, and not be going bald.

“The amount of surface area on a tire that’s actually touching the ground is pretty small,” he said.

“So there’s not a lot keeping their vehicle on the road.”

In addition to that, having improper tires can result in a fine, or in an accident, can determine how at-fault a driver is in a crash.

The best thing drivers can do is “slow down, and slow down a lot,” Halskov said.

Whether it’s turning, braking, or changing speeds, police say drivers should be ready for their car to handle much worse compared to bare pavement.

Halskov said commercial drivers need to be especially careful as they can both cause a lot of damage and block the highway for hours when the spin out of jacknife.

“It’s easily prevented if they carry chains and make an effort to pull over and put on their vehicle chains,” he said.

VIDEO: Dashcam shows semi truck roll-over in Abbotsford

VIDEO: Skier pulled through snowy street by SUV

While carrying chains is required only for commercial vehicles over 11,794 kilograms, Halskov said, it can be a good idea for anyone heading out on a long drive.

“Highway 3 between Hope and the Alberta border has about seven mountain passes to navigate and conditions can change very rapidly,” he said.

“It’s not uncommon to get caught by a weather system.”

To stay safe in case they have to pull over, drivers should keep food, water, an emergency kits and extra blankets and call for help if they get stuck.

Before heading out, check DriveBC to see any accidents and watch the webcams to get prepared for road conditions.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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