The Saskatchewan Safety Council is revving up its annual Skid Smart Collision Avoidance program in Regina.
In a province where winter driving conditions can last three to five months, the course offers training to any drivers who will take to Saskatchewan’s roads, including new Canadians, seniors, and even those who drive for a living.
“It’s a very important skill to have for all drivers out there,” says Al Gall, a traffic safety specialist with the Saskatchewan Safety Council.
Benson Akinbami, who first visited Canada from the United Kingdom in 2019, recognizes the need for a program like Skid Smart. He says he noticed that there are a lot of accidents in Regina during the winter. “So my thought was, how do you prevent that?”
Statistics provided in an email from Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) show that Akinbami’s observation about the frequency of accidents is spot on.
“Intersection collisions occur with higher frequency in the winter, although it’s hard to say whether this is solely due to slippery conditions,” SGI says.
“When looking at the intersection collision average (2016-2020), December to March makes up 45 per cent of total collisions while May to August makes up 28 per cent of total collisions.”
Gall says the training teaches drivers to focus on steering before braking.
“The first thing to correct with most drivers is not braking while in the turn,” he explains.
“If something comes out at you from a side street — a car or somebody steps out from between parked cars — make sure that you steer the vehicle first. Get it in a straight line and then start applying the brakes.”
Gall says that if you apply the brakes while you are turning, you can lose control of the back end of the vehicle. “It will start to spin and slide out of control.”
For Akinmabi, he says participating in the program taught him how to focus on weather conditions, such as the hurdles presented by blowing snow.
“Driving in wintery conditions is very precarious. And while it is essential, it requires everybody’s 1,000 per cent attention,” he says.
“A lot of the time, if I’m not the one driving, I always hold on to my seat, thinking, ‘Oh my, what’s going to happen?’ That experience has always been with me and it doesn’t make you feel very confident.”
Thi Cam Van Mai, a fellow participant from Vietnam, says she found the program very helpful. “I’m just a newcomer here and this is my first winter, so this course is very useful for me for driving in the winter.”
Winter driving can be intimidating, even for the most seasoned drivers. The Skid Smart program aims to give any participant fresh confidence behind the wheel.
At the beginning of training, a lot of drivers say they are scared of driving in the winter, Gall says.
“Through the process of this training, we get their comfort level up so that they are more comfortable driving in the winter and in slippery conditions,” Gall says.
The program usually runs from Tuesday to Friday, but Gall says that if there is enough interest, an arrangement can be made to book training on weekends as well.