As spring arrives, fire and driver safety more important than ever

We love spring. The warmer temperatures and melting snow give us hope that summer is almost here. Yet that nice weather also presents its own challenges, something we all need to be aware of and consider when enjoying the outdoors.

Be Fire Smart

From March 1 to October 31, fire permits are required for any burning, except campfires. Melting snowcover is variable; some areas had little snow this winter and others in the bush are waist deep. A dry spring will increase the risk of wildfires. The lack of moisture also creates the potential for fires lit this winter to burn under the snow and start up again as wildfires in the spring.

Alberta Environment recommends anyone who had a fire during the winter — a brush pile or windrow burning projects — to go back and ensure the fires are fully extinguished. There are three steps we should take:

  • Spread out the remaining fire material.
  • Soak the area and closely check that heat and smoke are no longer being produced.
  • Monitor the burn site multiple times in the coming weeks to make certain it has not reignited.

For information on brush pile and windrow safe burning practices click here.

Practice safe driving

Wildfires are not the only thing we need to watch out for as the weather improves. From a road safety perspective, 28% of all fatal collisions in Alberta occur between April and June. Perhaps not a surprise to those who live outside of major urban communities, most fatal collisions, more than 75 per cent, occur each year in rural locations. (These are statistics from 2018, the most recent data.)

That’s a staggering number and one we can all help reduce. Here are some safe driving tips from the Alberta Motor Association:

Safety begins before you get behind the wheel

  • Replace windshield wiper blades that leave streaks or don’t clear the glass in a single swipe.
  • To ensure visibility during bad weather, keep all headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals clean and functioning. (As a rule, turn on your headlights whenever you drive.)
  • Keep your tires properly inflated and make sure they have plenty of tread. Studies show that a 3 mm-deep tread can stop a vehicle on wet pavement in a 25% shorter distance than a tire with a 1.5 mm-deep tread.
  • Winter tires should be left on until the ambient temperature stays above 7 degrees Celsius on average.

Look Out for Pedestrians – Warm weather means more people outside.

  • Slow down and be extra cautious in pedestrian corridors, playground and school zones.
  • If a yellow pedestrian-activated traffic light is flashing, slow to 30 km/h and yield to pedestrians wanting to cross the street. (Not stopping for pedestrians at a crosswalk results in a $810 fine and four demerit points.)
  • Be wary of pedestrians who may be fixated on their electronic devices and aren’t paying due attention to traffic.

Watch for Wildlife – Animals are on the move.

  • Be aware that it’s the time of year when animals come out of hibernation and are foraging for food.
  • Many animals are more active at dawn and dusk.
  • Watch for animal-crossing signs, reduce your speed, look well ahead and scan aggressively.
  • Animals often move in groups. If you pass one animal, slow down because there may be more.
  • If it looks like you’re going to hit a large animal, try to strike it at an angle to reduce the chance of it coming through your windshield. Let up on the brakes just before hitting the animal. Statistics show 54% of crashes on Alberta rural highways involve animals, and 4% of those crashes result in human casualties.
  • In urban areas, you still need to be on the lookout for animals. You may encounter animals roaming near parks, wooded areas, river valleys, open green space, or city outskirts.

Share the Road – Spring means more road maintenance crews, cyclists and motorcyclists.

  • Give maintenance crews plenty of space and adhere to all posted speed limit signs in those areas. In construction zones, always obey the flag person’s signal and be prepared to slow down and/or stop when entering work zones. (When workers are present, fines double for speeding in construction zones.)
  • Mirror check, and check your blind spot before all horizontal movement.
  • When turning left, scan for oncoming motorcycles. Motorcyclists can be hard to see, especially in heavy traffic or at night, and often move faster than it appears.
  • To help avoid construction delays, check AMA Road Reports interactive map ahead of time and use an alternate route if possible.

Take Extra Care When It Rains – Rain does more than decrease the visibility of drivers. It can also lead to a life-threatening situation called hydroplaning.

Hydroplaning happens when a sheet of water comes between your vehicle’s tires and the pavement, causing your vehicle to lose traction. For this reason, it is essential to remember that a wet road in the spring can be just as dangerous and slippery as an icy one, and must be carefully driven on.

Keep A Safe Distance From Other Vehicles

You can avoid all sorts of accidents in the spring by keeping a safe following distance from the vehicle in front of you. Three seconds is considered a safe distance in normal situations. Increase this to eight seconds in the case of a storm or rainfall.

 Check out the Alberta and Alberta Motor websites for more information and resources on fire and driving safety,

and have a great Spring!

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