Know how to stay safe behind the wheel this holiday season

The holidays are here—and for most Canadians, that usually means a lot more time spent in the car. Even though most of us are staying closer to home this year, chances are we will do our fair share of winter driving in the weeks ahead.
Snow, sleet, whiteouts and freezing rain can make driving treacherous in the winter months. Rural rail crossings can be particularly hazardous. Most of these crossings are equipped with crossbucks, but they don’t have gates, lights or bells to warn of approaching trains—so drivers need to be extra vigilant. On top of this, blowing snow and poor visibility can make it hard for drivers to see oncoming trains.
In early December, the same freight train was involved in two separate incidents in rural Manitoba—on the same day. In the first incident, a vehicle collided with the train at a railway crossing equipped with a crossbuck east of Winkler, Manitoba. Just two hours later, another vehicle collided with the same train at another crossing west of the town. Although both drivers escaped with their lives, it’s a shocking reminder of the need for caution when approaching rural crossings, especially in the winter months.
Following these simple tips can help keep you safe when you encounter train tracks this winter:
  • Reduce your speed. When road conditions are poor, it takes longer to stop, especially when driving at night. Always slow down well in advance of a railway crossing. 
  • Avoid distractions. When approaching railway crossings, turn off the radio and heating fans so you can listen for oncoming trains. Roll down your window—especially if it’s frosty or foggy—and look both ways before crossing the tracks. 
  • Look for railway warning signs and signals—and prepare to stop. Snow may cover train tracks at a crossing, making them look like the road.
  • Use winter tires. They have treads designed to grip ice and snow, so you'll be less likely to slide on the road or into the side of a train.
Remember, rail safety is everyone’s responsibility. So be rail-smart this winter: Look. Listen. Live.