As Flatlanders, we sometimes need a bit of a reminder that, while we are quite accustomed to prairie winter driving conditions, we are not invincible and we can’t let our sometimes over-confidence outweigh our common sense.
Oh, wait, I can still say Flatlanders can’t I? I don’t want to offend anyone, but I honestly just can’t keep up to all the political correctness and who got offended lately. I know I can say Saskatchewanians, but seriously, people who don’t live here can barely pronounce the name of our province, let alone adding more letters to the word.
Wherever you drive on the Canadian prairies, be it Alberta, Saskatchewan or Manitoba, our long winters and frequent highway commutes can build a sense of superiority about our driving skills, and rightfully so for many of us. We are experienced. We do have the skills to handle winter driving conditions that many people in other parts of the country may lack. Most of us are prepared with the right winter tires and vehicles that have been tried and tested in many winter storms as well.
What we need to be reminded of, is that our skills and how well equipped our vehicles are will only get us so far, and that even the best of us can get into situations where we are as vulnerable as our friends from Vancouver, that we love to taunt over their 2 cm of snow shutting their city down.
We’ve all seen the worst drivers, those who’s confidence risks the lives of others. You are slowed right down and hunched over the wheel trying to keep track of the center line, as blasts of blowing snow make visibility beyond your front bumper impossible, when someone flies past you doing regular highway speeds. You mutter, “You idiot!“, or something not so polite. But truth be told, more of us than are willing to admit have taken chances, maybe not as stupid as passing guy, but ones that we probably should have thought twice about.
The photo above is our own truck, taken back in January 2015, when one overconfident driver made the mistake of feeling invincible in a white out. It happened on Highway 1, near Elie, MB. While it’s a stretch of highway that is famous for white out conditions, it could happen anywhere. The traffic on the highway had come to a halt for an accident scene where a light truck had tried to cross the highway from a grid road and was hit by an eastbound semi he did not see coming, due to the white out.
The Stars Air Ambulance was called in, and we watched as the helicopter circled repeatedly, trying to safely land in the horrible conditions. Not many vehicles had lined up yet, and there where many open areas, which was a good thing. We watched helplessly as trucks and cars came flying up behind us slamming on the brakes and swerving to the left and right of us. One cattle liner was lucky enough to be in the fast lane which was mostly clear of vehicles, as he slid to a stop within inches of the vehicle ahead of him.
While my husbands driving experience, good winter tires and common sense had kept us from being the ones to risk others, we were now sitting ducks. With people who had pulled to the right onto the shoulder as they couldn’t stop fast enough beside us, we were boxed in and had no choice but watch anxiously in the rear view mirrors and pray that no one comes up behind us at high speed. Just as a couple of cars moved ahead on the shoulder and my husband decided to take the opening to move over more, he spied our worst fears in his side view mirror and put his foot on the brakes to brace for the impending impact of a big pickup that had clearly thought he was invincible.
Because we were slightly angled at the time the truck hit us, and because he swerved to the left at the last minute, he only connected with the rear corner of our truck box. The left lane still open at the time meant he was able to come to a stop without hitting anyone else, though he was a good two semi lengths ahead when he finally did stop.
But in all of it, we where not the luckiest ones. A lady in a little tiny car ahead of us was lucky on so many levels. She was lucky that we were angled to the right, because that saved us from being pushed into the back of her car. Notice our taillight missing? She was lucky because when the force of the impact threw the taillight right past our truck and into the back window of her car, it landed inches away from her head. But most of all, she was lucky we were there. Had she been the last in line, and that truck had hit her instead of us, the accident would have been much worse. Take a look at what the impact did to a big steel truck, $7,000 in damage… her little economy car would not have faired so well.
But the real kicker… after he came to a stop the driver of the truck came running over to check on us to make sure we were ok, and, in true Flatlander fashion, apologize to us. His actual words were, “Sorry…my bad!” He seemed like a real nice guy, sincere in his apology, yet his comment later that he was “only doing 80k” was enough to show his overconfidence in the constantly changing visibility that was going from 100 feet to zero without warning.
The whole point here is that no matter how skilled you are, no matter how good you vehicles and tires are for winter conditions, it can happen to you too. You might get as lucky as we all did that day. You might not.
Please think twice, check road conditions, even go online to social media and ask your friends and neighbours before venturing out in bad conditions. Life still has to go on, people need to get to work, or get home when the storm hits.
In the words of Charles, a Nipawin News reader, “whatever happened to carry a shovel and leave extra early ??” Give yourself time, assume it’s going to take you longer and don’t let your schedule dictate your well being, or anyone else’s.