Winter Driving Through the Eyes of… Paramedics

If a highway incident happens, the British Columbia Ambulance Service is one of the first responders on the scene. Paramedics such as Corey Viala and Annemarie Byers have seen a lot. And, sadly, a lot of what they’ve seen, including the injuries they’ve treated, was preventable.

This is Part 1 of a Shift Into Winter interview series exploring how various people, representing various professions, experience winter driving in B.C.

We begin by talking to Corey and Annemarie in hopes of sharing their firsthand experiences of the dangers winter can pose for those who are unprepared. Here are a few excerpts from our conversations:

TranBC: Hi Corey. Tell us a bit about yourself.

Corey: I’ve been a paramedic in the B.C. Ambulance Service for over 20 years. Living in a small community [Nelson], I’ve witnessed many accidents that have involved people that I know… friends, co-workers, and family members.

TranBC: How should drivers in B.C. approach winter driving?

Corey: What I’d really like to see is people being prepared when heading out on that winter drive. Make sure their vehicle is equipped for all different kinds of road conditions, because good winter tires are a must when travelling on highways in the Interior.

And please, just slow down give yourself lots of time when making your travel plans. Just take a moment and think of, what I like to call, the “impact after the impact.” What I mean by that, is the impact of what an accident can have, not only for your vehicle, but your community, your family, your friends, and of course your own personal safety.

TranBC: Hi Annemarie. Please introduce yourself.

Annemarie: I’m a paramedic with the B.C. Ambulance Service, and I’m the Provincial Public Education Director. I’m in the Lower Mainland most of the time, although I started my career further up in the north. I’ve seen everything from whiteout blizzards to just rain during the winter.

TranBC: How does winter driving vary across the province?

Annemarie: Well, we find down in the Lower Mainland we get high speed in the rain. People drive way too fast for the conditions, versus in the north, they have a lot more snow and ice but they drive a little bit more cautiously.

TranBC: Based on what you’ve seen, what winter driving safety advice comes to mind?

Annemarie: Make sure your headlights are on. A lot of people have cars where they start the engine and automatically their driving lights come on, but they don’t realize that they have no lights on the back of their car. It’s really important that people get in the habit of actually turning all their lights on.

I have five kids – four of them are driving. So, the advice I always give them is: give yourself extra time, be prepared for, not only the weather so your tires, your fluids but be prepared in case you are stuck on the side of the road.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Shift Into Winter interview series. In the meantime, perhaps you have some winter driving safety wisdom to pass on…? Do you feel prepared for the elements? Any cautionary tales? Let us know how your winter driving season is going in the comments section below.

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