Winter Driving: How Not to Need a Tow Truck

A roadside expert generously shared his knowledge with us recently, to help drivers #ShiftintoWinter, and keep everyone safer on B.C.’s roads.

Larry Styba rescues vehicles as part of his job as a tow truck operator, trainer and public relations person with Maple Ridge Towing. A WreckMaster Level 6/7 certified towing and recovery operator, Larry sees and hears how people end up in mishaps that require his help.

He also knows what’s needed to drive large vehicles in winter’s most challenging conditions, as he previously was a professional driver for ski group tour buses and Greyhound.

TranBC: Aside from vehicle prep, what can drivers do to be safe in the winter? Obviously, you’re responding to a lot of these incidents, whether people were prepared or not prepared…

Larry: Give yourself plenty of extra time to get to your destination. When the adverse driving weather conditions are existing, you have to adjust your driving to meet those conditions. Slowing down, giving yourself more space in between the car ahead of you can be a factor that keeps you out of the ditch, and definitely you won’t need my services.

I have seen many people drive too fast for the road conditions, and they end up in the ditch. Whether it be wet pavement, snow or ice, the best advice I have is to brake your vehicles in the straight stretches — not in the corner. Because once you get into the corner and you have to use your brakes, the corner has got you.

TranBC: What kind of problems do you respond to in the winter?

Larry: When the snow flies down the Fraser Valley and the Lower Mainland we get a lot of calls for recoveries, from cars that are fully submerged into water-filled ditches, to people who slide off their driveways just simply by backing out and sliding on the ice.

So we’ve got quite a range of recoveries. Quite often when the snow flies we’re just going from one accident to another trying to keep the roads clear.

In a cold snap, we’ll be prone to do more battery boosts, but believe it or not we actually tow more vehicles for overheating than we would during the summer.

TranBC: The Lower Mainland obviously experiences winter differently from the rest of the province. Do you find drivers not anticipating, not being prepared for when it actually hits them for that few days every year, an issue?

Larry: That’s exactly it. I think they’re used to all of the nice weather the West Coast has, even though we get some rain. A lot of times they’re still speeding through the winter time. Also, add your distracted driving to the mix now, and ice and snow, and definitely the Lower Mainland is a problem area when they see the snow fly for the one or two days that we get it.

TranBC: Lastly Larry, what’s your message to other employers to ensure their employees practice safe driving? Obviously, your fleet has to drive differently too in the winter.

Larry: My biggest thing to other employers, is to make sure that your vehicles are winter ready – snow tires just not on your drive wheels but all four wheels. Your employees who are driving your vehicles, if they are displaying bad driving habits that will also reflect on your company, it’s definitely not the public image that you want to have out there for your company.

As a matter of fact, if you are a professional driving firm such as a tow truck company, I believe that our commercial vehicles and our professional drivers should set the example for all other drivers out there.

TranBC: Hence the “How’s my driving?” bumper stickers on a lot of commercial vehicles…

Larry: Ha-ha…no doubt! A lot of people don’t realize it but driving is actually a privilege – not a right. A lot of people don’t slow down and respect life.

Thanks to Larry Styba for these #ShiftIntoWinter tips. Larry has previously spoken to us about how drivers in need of roadside assistance and tow truck operators on the job, can stay safe while on the highway.

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12 Responses to Winter Driving: How Not to Need a Tow Truck

  1. Andre Beluchi on April 4, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    The condition that the van in the picture was in seems similar to my situation. I had ended up being like that last winter when a storm came in. The tow truck itself took about three hours to come by because of the storm and how the driver was unable to see well.

    • tranbceditor on April 4, 2016 at 4:15 pm

      Hi Andre, Sorry to hear. Sounds like it must have been an uncomfortable ordeal. (And a tough spot to get out of). Safe travels.

  2. Lauren Woodley on November 17, 2015 at 5:34 am

    I really appreciated all of the car advice you give here. Specifically, since the weather here has turned cold and snowy, I appreciated the advice you gave about making sure your car is winter ready the most. You talk about how you need snow tires for all four tires, which I definitely agree will reduce the risk of skidding and getting stuck a lot better. Additionally, you talk about how it’s important to change driving habits, too, because when you are more cautious and defensive in your driving, you will be able to avoid serious accidents, which I agree. Thus, I will definitely be sure to keep these things in mind as winter starts moving in and staying permanently. Thank you for sharing!

    • tranbceditor on November 17, 2015 at 1:57 pm

      Great to hear – thanks Lauren.

  3. Ian Johanson on October 29, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Thanks for the article. I’m in agreement that the best way to avoid being towed out of a ditch in the winter is just to drive slower. It’s something that I struggle with a lot. I tend to be late a lot and drive faster to make up for it. I have had some near misses though, and I’m trying to give myself more time.

  4. Stephen Adams on October 21, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    I agree that extra time is super important. As soon as winter hits here, I wake up 30 minutes earlier. I tend to see a lot of accidents and black ice on the roads during my morning commutes in winter. The extra time allows me to get to work at safe speed. I want to hit snooze, but it’s not worth it.

  5. DoloresB on September 30, 2015 at 6:18 am

    It’s a good idea to try to not need a tow truck. In winter driving can be really interesting, but if you’re careful you can most likely avoid needing a tow truck. I like your tip to slow down, because in the snow you need a lot more room to slow down or you will really need the help of a tow truck.

  6. Callie Marie on September 22, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    Giving yourself extra time to drive in the winter is really great advice! That way you won’t need to be in a hurry, so you can take your time and drive more carefully. I will be sure to remember this tip when it starts snowing, so I can avoid ending up in a ditch like the car in the picture. Just in case, I should keep the phone number for a tow truck in my phone.

  7. Douglas Brown on July 9, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    Last year we had problems during the winter because as the weather got worse, we did not plan accordingly. You hit it right on the head and anyone in winter weather who is driving should give more time for travel. In most cases I think that half an hour is usually pretty good, depending on the total distance of the trip. One time we were going too fast to compensate for travel time and ran into a ditch. We had to get towed as well, which was not that fun.

  8. DoloresB on June 8, 2015 at 7:51 am

    In the winter you can get stuck in some tough places, so I imagine that tow trucks are common. It would be nice to drive or have tools so that I don’t need a tow truck every time I’m stuck. In general, I think driving safe or cautious is a good practice for winter.

  9. bill turner on January 10, 2015 at 9:28 am

    unable to access soundcloud what is it anyway

    • tranbceditor on January 12, 2015 at 1:32 pm

      Hi Bill,
      That’s weird that you’re not able to access SoundCloud. It could be your web browser but it’s hard to say. This is an audio sharing website that we use from time to time to store audio clips. Usually done with interviews for our purposes.

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