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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