On Yellowknife roads in wintertime, Paul Simon’s classic tune Slip Slidin’ Away hits a little closer to home.
From December through April, city crews are at work daily clearing snow, grading and laying gravel to increase traction on Yellowknife’s icy streets.
The city spreads about 4,000 cubic meters of gravel on its roads annually – nearly enough to fill two Olympic-sized swimming pools.
However, there is only so much the city can do to mitigate the effects of long, frigid winters on the city’s roads.
“Ultimately,” said Ian Jack, of the Canadian Automobile Association, staying safe on the road in winter “comes down to good defensive driving.”
“Whenever possible, leave yourself extra time to get where you’re going so that you don’t have to rush, so that you can slow down, leave a half-decent distance between yourself and the vehicle ahead of you, because inevitably, there’s going to be some sliding,” Jack said from Ottawa on Wednesday.
“If you’re in a rush and cutting corners with your driving, (sliding) is more likely to happen.”
Jack had some other tips to help drivers avoid slippery – and potentially dangerous – situations.
If you find yourself sliding, said Jack, steer into the skid.
Some people have been taught to pump their breaks in a skid, he added, but this rule doesn’t apply to newer car models.
“With ABS (anti-lock breaking system) breaks, you’re supposed to press down hard and keep pressed down,” said Jack.
“You’re not actually helping yourself by madly pumping the break during a skid.”
He also recommends carrying a sandbag or large bag of salt in the back of your vehicle.
Not only does the weight help with control, but if you get stuck, you can spread some of the stuff around your wheels.
Winter road maintenance takes place during the early morning hours, beginning at midnight, to avoid conflicts with other vehicles and pedestrians.
High-traffic streets and school zones get top priority.
A snow-clearing schedule is posted on the city’s website: yellowknife.ca.