‘Hurry, hurry’ is biggest winter driving problem: 24-year grader vet

Seated 4 meters above the road in the heated comfort of his 25-ton, six-wheel-drive Volvo grader, Bruce Claassen has seen more than his share of high-risk winter driving.

The nature of his job puts Bruce on the road in the city’s southwest region during all of the worst weather that winter throws at Edmonton. So he’s seen it all.

“The basic problem is that people’s lives are all hurry-hurry-hurry these days,” says the 24-year veteran City of Edmonton Transportation Services equipment operator.

“I know everyone’s heard the slow-down message over and over again, but some people never really ‘get’ the message.

“Driving too fast for winter road conditions is the biggest problem,” he says. “Next comes following too close, which is also related to the hurry-up mentality.

“Next is drivers who don’t clear the snow and ice from their windows before they get on the road. What can you see through a little hole your defroster’s melted – absolutely nothing!

“And then there’s the 4-wheel drivers who accelerate really quickly on slippery roads; they forget that their brakes are just like everyone else’s…it takes way longer to stop than they think.”

Those problems are universal to winter driving, in both good and bad winter weather, city or country.

Bruce Claassen’s been driving a City grader for 24 years in all of the worst winter weather, and he’s seen plenty of unsafe driving in his time. Slow down, maybe even choose another route, he says, and your chances of actually getting to where you’re going increase.

Bruce Claassen’s been driving a City grader for 24 years in all of the worst winter weather, and he’s seen plenty of unsafe driving in his time. Slow down, maybe even choose another route, he says, and your chances of actually getting to where you’re going increase.

Bruce has some additional peeves when it comes to how drivers act around snow removal equipment trying to clear roadways.

“They follow us way too close, even though we’ve got big signs on the back of our vehicles telling people to stay 15 meters back.

“They usually have no idea how to handle windrows on the roadway before we’ve had a chance to move them to the roadside.

“And they forget that once we’ve scraped the road, it’s like a skating rink until sand trucks have followed us up.”

Bruce says drivers should be flexible about their routes, and turn off their intended route when they see equipment working.

“They get fixated on the route they normally travel, or maybe they’re fixated on what their GPS is telling them…but the safest way to avoid being hung up on a windrow that turns out to be a lot higher then your vehicle’s clearance is to use another route.

“It may take you an extra five minutes to get where you’re going, but at least you’ll get there.”

City of Edmonton grader operator Bruce Claassen says winter drivers would be a lot safer if they slowed down, followed less closely, cleaned their windows before driving, and used a different route when they see heavy snow removal operations underway.

City of Edmonton grader operator Bruce Claassen says winter drivers would be a lot safer if they slowed down, followed less closely, cleaned their windows before driving, and used a different route when they see heavy snow removal operations underway.

Some other winter safe-driving tips:

● Winterize your vehicle & carry an emergency kit
● Actual snow tires grip better than all-seasons.
● Start slow, accelerate gradually.
● If no one’s close behind, tap brakes occasionally to test traction.
● Use low-beams so your tail lights are on, making you more visible to following drivers.
● Tire tracks often freeze to ice. Drive in fresh snow if possible.
● Shaded areas and bridges freeze earlier, stay frozen longer
● Don’t pass snowplows or large vehicles kicking up clouds of snow
● If you skid, take your foot off the brake, and steer in the direction of the skid. Look where you want to go, and steer toward that spot. DON’T oversteer!

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