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  • By Jordan W. Charness

    Is its cold enough out there for you? Here we are at that miserable time of year when it seems like the winter will never end; not only that, many of us feel that winter has been here forever. We can barely remember when the sun shone so warmly that we hesitated to go outside for fear of getting Sun stroke. Sweat pouring from our brows as we battled the high humidity of a July day is just a distant memory.

    Strange things happen to us at this time of year. Unlike late October when we would put on a parka to take in the morning paper, we now take our garbage out to the curb dressed in no more than a T-shirt, blue jeans and our slippers even though it’s minus 20 outside. After several months of driving through snow and ice we now feel like winter warriors.

    In winter warrior mode we will hop into the car that is in our heated garage and begin the morning carpool run without bothering to put on a jacket, never thinking for a moment that the car could break down leaving us to face winter’s wrath in our house clothes.

    Unfortunately breakdowns do happen. There must be some kind of law which makes it imperative that you’ll break down when you are late for an appointment and miles from home. Every year a few people die in Canada because their car broke down and they failed to follow even the most basic winter survival rules.

    Here are a few simple rules for surviving a breakdown on the highway while keeping your actions legal. These rules will also apply in the city but may be modified where it makes sense to do so.

    If the engine quits or the car breaks down while you’re driving make sure that you pull over as far as possible to the right hand side of the road. Although you may be in a bit of a panic because of some strange noise coming from under the hood, remember that the road may be slippery and there are still other cars around you.

    Make sure to signal before moving to the right and check that there are no cars immediately behind you that may be surprised when you suddenly decide to pull over. Avoid abrupt manoeuvres since the road may be icy which may cause you to lose control. An abrupt manoeuvre will also make it more likely that you cut off somebody behind you and cause an accident.

    Once you’ve pulled over as far to the right as you can, stay in your car and wait for help to arrive.

    Make sure that your car is as visible as it possibly can be. Turn on your emergency flashers and raise your car hood so that people will know that you have broken down. If you are stuck on a curve or a hill or any other place where it may be difficult for you to be seen, you should light flares and place them a few metres behind your vehicle.

    Obviously, if you have a cell phone, call for help. In some provinces there is a special phone number for you to call which will directly connect you to the police who will know that you have broken down. On those highways that have exclusive towing agreements there should be a sign with a telephone number that should also connect you to the towing company who can come and get you.

    Remember that this number is used only when you have broken down and not when there is an accident requiring police assistance. In that case, dial 9-1-1 or have the operator connect you to the police.

    The general rule is that if you break down on a bridge or an auto route that has dense traffic you should stay in the vehicle and wait for help to arrive. There are safety patrol vehicles who cruise these roads looking for people in your situation.

    If you feel that where you are parked is a spot that puts you in danger of collision despite your attempts to make the vehicle visible, you should leave the car and go for help. If there is no sidewalk remember to walk facing traffic.

    Since you’ll be away from your vehicle make sure that you have locked all the doors and closed the hood in order to deter thieves.

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