Cancelled Day Trip (What is your Danger Weight?)

At what point does risk outweigh fun? When is it time to cut and run?

It is 7:33 am and I am looking forward to another fun-filled day in the outdoors. It is -6º C and overcast, with snow flurries accumulating to less than 1 cm. Nothing to worry about I thought. I’ll be disappointed that the overcast skies will make my photographs dark and dull; disappointed that the sunshine won’t out to make everything happier. But out I go, still excited to go ice trail skating 2.5 hours north of here at Arrowhead Provincial Park.

It seems deceptively slippery on the road as I pull out on to the main road. Turning on the radio I hear about car accidents throughout the city and surrounding area; mostly single-vehicle accidents due to the icy conditions. Then I hear that a section of Highway 401, nearby to my location, is closed due to cars sliding off the road, until they have it salted and sanded.

“The conditions aren’t that bad,” I say aloud. “Why are people spinning out?” I have winter tires; drive as fast as the conditions allow; and I figure that since I am heading north I will be driving away from people who don’t have winter tires. After driving for 15 minutes I actually see a few single car accidents or at least the aftermath, where people have failed to stop in time and have hit the person in front of them, or have driven through an intersection have either opted to make a deposit into a snow bank or to kiss a light pole.

I turn back. I decide that I’d be fine, but that it will be someone who will be driving too aggressively for these conditions that will take me out with them. The risk has out weighed the day’s activities. With this many accidents in such a short period of time, and the fact that I would be on the road for 2.5 hours each way, it is too much of a gamble. As a younger man I took risks that I never would have now, and I probably would have continued on. But those are other stories.

Winter driving can be dangerous. This episode has prompted me to list what I believe to be a safe winter driving essentials below.Great Grey Owl: Greenwood Conservation Area

Top 10 Tips for a Safe Winter Trip:

  1. If the trip or activity starts becoming dangerous know when to turn back
  2. Drive as fast as conditions allow and increase your stopping distance
  3. Use headlights in low light conditions
  4. Before you leave check your vehicle, including tires, belts, windshield wash
  5. Ensure you have a fully charged cell phone and car charger
  6. Have a winter safety kit that includes shovel, candle, extra clothing, first aid kit, candles, matches, jumper cables
  7. Start both ends of the trip with a full tank of gas tank
  8. Pack food and water and keep it in the passenger compartment as it may freeze in the trunk
  9. Plan your route and ensure someone else knows it and your timetable
  10. Stop and stretch often so you don’t cramp up or get fatigued

Isn’t it funny how we often experience many interesting things due to an unplanned event, or diversion. Perhaps that is why I typically won’t ask for directions when I probably should; but then maybe it’s just because I’m a man. On my turn around, I got to see, what I believe was a Great Grey Owl, and managed to take a picture of it as it flew off. It seems to me that Southern Ontario is a little south of their natural habitat.