Stating the Obvious: Canadians Hate Winter Driving

Source: State Farm Canada Press Release: Alerting you to our latest news release outlining results from a national survey about Canadians and their driving habits. In perhaps the biggest understatement in news history, the majority of Canadians hate driving in the winter.

The weather last winter was terrible in most provinces across the country, so it’s no surprise that 82 per cent of Canadians dislike driving in the winter. Blizzards, freezing rain and ice make driving difficult, and winter driving requires people to be focused, eliminate all forms of distraction and concentrate on the road. According to findings from a national State Farm survey, 86 per cent of Canadian drivers believe they are good drivers, but come the first snow fall, 66 per cent say people drive horribly, like they’ve never seen snow before.

By the numbers:

  • 2 out of 3 Canadians say people drive terribly once the snow flies
  • 82% dislike driving in the winter
  • 45% say they find it hardest to drive when there’s black ice, followed by freezing rain (23%)
  • 73% dislike driving during the evening


Click info graphic below for more information.

A recent national State Farm Canada Survey asked Canadians to rate their driving strengths and weaknesses. Full infographic in link below. (CNW Group/State Farm)

Convicted for Impaired Driving in Alberta – Can I Drive in BC?

Keys and DrinkThe basis of this story comes from an inquiry posed by a young man who moved from BC to Alberta for work and was convicted for drinking and driving. He lost his job and was forced to move back home. The Justice of the Peace at the courthouse in Alberta advised that his driving prohibition was for the province of Alberta and that this should not stop him from obtaining a BC driver’s licence when he returned home. The Justice of the Peace was not correct.

Anyone who is prohibited from operating a motor vehicle by the law of a province and drives commits an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada. Put more simply, if you are prohibited from driving by the law of any province, you are prohibited from driving anywhere in Canada. If you choose to drive and are convicted, you will have a criminal record for doing so.

When this young man visits an ICBC Driver Service Center to regain his BC driver’s licence he will be asked if he is currently prohibited from driving in another jurisdiction. If he answers honestly a check will be made with the Alberta authorities. The confirmed impaired driving conviction will be entered on his driving record and he will be automatically prohibited from driving in BC for one year from the date of the Alberta conviction. If he lies and is caught, other criminal sanctions will result if he is convicted.

Continuing to drive without a licence, prohibited or not, will only serve to make the problem worse. There are significant fines, possible jail sentences, vehicle impounds and further prohibitions that could be applied.

While the consequences of this young man’s poor decision look significant for him, it is nothing in comparison to the potential harm his choice presented to both himself and others. Driving while impaired by alcohol, legal or illegal drugs is still far too common on our highways. Never drive while your abilities are impaired.

Resource Links:

Ready or not, winter is coming – and every year it seems to catch drivers by surprise. #wecandrivebetter

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DriveSmartBC: Avoiding Penalty Points

One of the recurring themes in the DriveSmartBC Discussion Forum involves avoiding penalty points after a driver has received a traffic ticket for committing a hazardous moving violation. Often the driver realizes that they have erred and are willing to pay the fine but want to avoid having penalty points assessed for the transgression. Avoiding penalty points is particularly important to drivers in the Graduated Licencing program who will be prohibited from driving at a low point threshold, but professional drivers and those with a poor driving record are also concerned.

Penalty points are essentially a score keeping method for assigning the level of risk associated with a hazardous moving violation. Disobeying a red light at an intersection is 2 points, speeding is 3 points, careless driving is 6 points and impaired driving is 10 points for example. ICBC and RoadSafetyBC use the penalty point total associated to a driving record to assess penalty point premiums or to impress driving prohibitions, the total cost or length of which depends on the number of penalty points accumulated during a period of time.

To state the obvious, the best way to avoid penalty points is not to be the recipient of a violation ticket in the first place. However, once you have a traffic ticket in hand, there are really only two ways to avoid penalty points. The first is to try and convince the officer who issued it to you to withdraw it and the second is to have the ticket dismissed in court. Once convicted, either through paying the penalty or having been found guilty at trial penalty points will be assessed. The justice cannot impose a fine but reduce or eliminate penalty points.

One other alternative is to agree to a plea bargain with the officer prior to your ticket dispute hearing. An example of this might be if you were charged with careless driving (which carries a fine of $368 and 6 points) you may be able to convince the officer to accept a guilty plea to an included offence with a higher fine and fewer points. Some officers are not comfortable with doing this, but there is no harm in trying.

Reference Links:

Cst. Tim Schewe (Ret.) runs DriveSmartBC, a community web site about traffic safety in British Columbia. For 25 years he was an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, including five years on general duty, 20 in traffic and 10 as a collision analyst responsible of conducting technical investigations of collisions. He retired from policing in 2006 but continues to be active in traffic safety through the DriveSmartBC web site, teaching seminars and contributing content to newspapers and web sites.

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AAA study: New Hands-free Technologies Pose Hidden Dangers for Drivers

“The lasting effects of mental distraction pose a hidden and pervasive danger that would likely come as a surprise to most drivers,” said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “The results indicate that motorists could miss stop signs, pedestrians and other vehicles while the mind is readjusting to the task of driving.”

Researchers found that potentially unsafe levels of mental distraction can last for as long as 27 seconds after completing a distracting task in the worst-performing systems studied. At the 25 MPH speed limit in the study, drivers traveled the length of nearly three football fields during this time. When using the least distracting systems, drivers remained impaired for more than 15 seconds after completing a task.

“Drivers should use caution while using voice-activated systems, even at seemingly safe moments when there is a lull in traffic or the car is stopped at an intersection,” said Marshall Doney, AAA’s President and CEO. “The reality is that mental distractions persist and can affect driver attention even after the light turns green.”

The researchers discovered the residual effects of mental distraction while comparing new hands-free technologies in ten 2015 vehicles and three types of smart phones. The analysis found that all systems studied increased mental distraction to potentially unsafe levels. The systems that performed best generally had fewer errors, required less time on task and were relatively easy to use.


The researchers rated mental distraction on a five-point scale. Category one represents a mild level of distraction and category five represents the maximum.  AAA considers a mental distraction rating of two and higher to be potentially dangerous while driving.

The best performing system was the Chevy Equinox with a cognitive distraction rating of 2.4, while the worst performing system was the Mazda 6 with a cognitive distraction rating of 4.6. Among phone systems, Google Now performed best with a distraction rating of 3.0, while Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana earned ratings of 3.4 and 3.8. Using the phones to send texts significantly increased the level of mental distraction. While sending voice-activated texts, Google Now rated as a category 3.3 distraction, while Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana rated as category 3.7 and category 4.1 distractions.

“The massive increase in voice-activated technologies in cars and phones represents a growing safety problem for drivers,” continued Doney. “We are concerned that these new systems may invite driver distraction, even as overwhelming scientific evidence concludes that hands-free is not risk free.”

Previous AAA Foundation research established that a category 1 mental distraction is about the same as listening to the radio or an audio book. A category 2 distraction is about the same as talking on the phone, while category 3 is equivalent to sending voice-activated texts on a perfect, error-free system. Category 4 is similar to updating social media while driving, while category 5 corresponds to a highly-challenging, scientific test designed to overload a driver’s attention.
“Developers should aim to reduce mental distractions by designing systems that are no more demanding than listening to the radio or an audiobook,” continued Doney. “Given that the impairing effects of distraction may last much longer than people realize, AAA advises consumers to use caution when interacting with these technologies while behind the wheel.”

Dr. David Strayer and Dr. Joel Cooper of the University of Utah conducted the research. A total of 257 drivers ages 21-70 participated in the study of 2015 model-year vehicles, while 65 additional drivers ages 21-68 tested the three phone systems.

Established by AAA in 1947, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, publicly-supported charitable educational and research organization. Dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries on our roads, the Foundation’s mission is to prevent crashes and save lives through research and education about traffic safety. The Foundation has funded over 200 research projects designed to discover the causes of traffic crashes, prevent them and minimize injuries when they do occur.  Visit for more information on this and other research.


Ontario: What you need to know about the winter tire insurance break

Ontario: What you need to know about the winter tire insurance break

By: Adam Mayers Personal Finance Editor

A very small piece of Ontario’s efforts to drive down the cost of car insurance is a new requirement that insurers offer a discount for snow tires by this coming Jan. 1.

When I say small, I mean it. If you buy new tires, the payoff is seven to 10 years away, and by then the car may be long gone.

So should you bother? I’d say so. This is really about safety, not insurance, despite how the Ontario Liberals have cast the move.

For anyone commuting in and out of Toronto and its freeze-thaw weather, winter tires are a must. I’ve had them for a decade and wouldn’t go back. The road grip and handling are far better than on our second car, which has all-season radials.

The discount is likely to be about 5 per cent of the cost of a policy. Since the average GTA car costs $1,600 to insure, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, you may save $80 per car per a year with winter tires.

The cheapest winter tire sold by my garage is $135 plus tax, or $610 for four. You can, of course, get cheaper or more expensive ones depending on where you shop. But in this example, the break-even point is 7.6 years.

What the Ontario initiative illustrates very clearly is the importance of shopping around. There are more than 50 companies offering car insurance in this province, and their discounts vary based on their claims experience. Some already offer the winter-tire discount. Some won’t tell you it’s available unless you ask. Going online to compare prices is easy.

So here’s what you need to know:

When can I get the discount?

All Ontario insurers must offer something by Jan. 1, 2016. But provincial finance minister Charles Sousa’s office says 45 per cent of them already do so.

I’m renewing before Jan. 1. Can I still get the discount?

Not unless your company already offers one.

My policy with TD Insurance Meloche Monnex (Security National) renews in two weeks. An agent told me over the phone last week the discount is not available until January, but did not know how much it will be.

He advised me to call back then and ask for a policy adjustment. Crystal Jongeward, a spokesperson for TD Insurance, says the discount could be up to 5 per cent.

How much is the discount?

It will vary, but will come in at between 3 and 5 per cent. The province only requires something be done by each province, but doesn’t set a number. Compliance will be monitored by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario, the provincial regulator.

As always, pay attention to the fine print. The discounts will likely not apply to the entire policy, just part of it. For example, Aviva Insurance has offered winter tire discounts since March, 2014, says spokesman Glenn Cooper. For Aviva, safer driving means fewer accidents, fewer claims, higher profits and lower prices for its customers.

Aviva’s discount is 5 per cent of the collision portion of the policy, which is about 90 per cent of the total cost. So 4.5 per cent is the overall reduction. TD Insurance is calculating its reduction the same way.

The discount is also made per car. So if one of yours has snow tires and the other doesn’t, cut the discount in half.



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