This article has been updated from a previous version.
The unofficial start of the Canadian summer is upon us: the Victoria Day long weekend. After months of bundling up to stave off winter’s chill, the May long weekend is typically when many Canadians venture outdoors to revel in the glory of milder temperatures. That means you can probably expect a lot of vehicles on the road.
It’s no coincidence, then, that police forces across the country will be out to enforce and raise awareness of safe driving for Canada Road Safety Week, which runs from May 17 to 23.
If you intend to take a road trip for the May long weekend, here are five road safety tips to keep in mind before shifting into drive.
1. Don’t drive impaired or fatigued
If you imbibe alcohol, consume cannabis, or are tired, don’t get behind the wheel of a vehicle for any reason. Driving while impaired or fatigued is a potential recipe for catastrophe.
Alarmingly, the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) reported a 25% increase in impairment-related charges laid between January 1 and March 30, 2022, compared to the same time last year. Of the 146 drivers charged with impaired driving during that period, nearly half were involved in a collision. Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs can place others and yourself at risk.
Likewise, driving while fatigued can significantly impact your chances of getting into a collision. Sleep deprivation can compromise your ability to drive safely. According to the Alberta Motor Association, with six to seven hours of sleep, your crash risk is 1.3 times higher than normal. With less than four hours of sleep, your crash risk is an eye-opening 11.5 times higher than normal.
2. Don’t be a distracted driver
Safe driving requires your full attention and concentration. But if you’re playing with a mobile device or reaching for an object, you’re not entirely dialled in on the task at hand. Unfortunately, distracted driving is a significant road safety problem. For example, a RATESDOTCA survey found that 83% of Canadians admit to distracted driving by partaking in at least one of the activities mentioned in the study — whether it be taking phone calls or eating while behind the wheel.
It is illegal to interact with a mobile phone or any handheld electronic device while driving, even if you’re stopped at a traffic light or stop sign. The only exception is if you need to call 9-1-1 because of an emergency. The fines and penalties for driving distracted are particularly harsh in Ontario, where drivers face fines up to $1,000, are hit with three demerit points, and a three-day licence suspension for the first infraction. That infraction will stay on your driving record for three years from the date of conviction, and it will significantly affect your auto insurance premium.
3. Wear a seatbelt
Most Canadians wear a seatbelt when in a car, whether as drivers or passengers. However, 5% of us (or 2 million Canadians) don’t regularly buckle up. According to Transport Canada, 29.4% of auto-related fatalities and 10.8% of serious injuries to drivers resulted from people not using a seatbelt. The fact is, wearing a seatbelt can save your life if you’re in a collision.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. says seatbelt use reduces serious crash-related injuries and death by half. The point? Protect yourself and your passengers by always strapping in before motoring away.
4. Plan and be prepared
You’ll likely encounter slow-moving, May long weekend traffic on your journey. Take it in stride. There’s no need to drive aggressively, tailgate other drivers, or attempt to pass more slow-moving vehicles on a two-lane undivided highway.
Driving with care is less stressful and will help you save fuel. Arriving safely at your destination should be your number one priority. A little pre-long weekend planning can help. Map out your route and alternative routes, be aware of the weather and road conditions, and if you can, leave home earlier or later to avoid high volumes of traffic.
5. Ensure your vehicle is ready to roll
Suppose you decide to take a road trip to go camping or visit a cottage for the weekend. Before you rev your engine and cruise away for a refreshing weekend escape to nature, get your vehicle inspected and ensure it’s in good condition. Get an oil and filter change if necessary, make sure your tires are adequately inflated, and have an emergency survival kit on board in the event your car breaks down.
Protect your driving record and keep your insurance premium low
Being a courteous and defensive driver can help make your May long weekend road trip a memorable affair for all the right reasons. Moreover, good driving behaviour can protect your driving record and ensure you pay low auto insurance rates.
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