Well, that was quite a change in the weather, was it not? We seemed to go from an extended late summer to a couple of days of fall and then straight into winter. A few days before Halloween people were still walking around in shorts and T-shirts; then hoodies came out for a very short time, and now everyone I see walking past the Journal office on a chilly Monday morning is bundled up in winter coats, hats, gloves, and scarves.
The sudden onslaught of winter weather caused chaos on the roads, and many people were quick to point the finger at road maintenance companies who, they averred, were nowhere in sight, either before the snowfall — about which there was plenty of advance warning — or during it. Social media was full of people pointing out unplowed highways with no gritting in evidence, and angrily demanding to know why conditions were so bad.
We’ll get to that in a moment, but first let’s talk about individual responsibility. There were lots of stories late last week about tire shops unable to cope with the sudden surge in drivers wanting to get their winter tires put on; this despite the fact that it was the first week of November, and winter tires have been mandatory on most Southern Interior highways since Oct. 1. A goodly number of the people who were out and about in the snow that started on Nov. 3 probably didn’t have winter tires on their vehicle, in which case they’re a big part of the problem.
There is also the undeniable fact that lots of folk simply have no idea how to drive to conditions. Here in the Interior many people like to look down on drivers in the Lower Mainland when that region gets half-an-inch of snow and roads there look like a demolition derby, but just because you live in an area that regularly and predictably gets a lot of snow doesn’t give you magical powers when the white stuff falls. Safe driving in winter conditions has to be learned; it isn’t absorbed through the pores. And please, don’t use the “But I have 4-wheel-drive” line, as if that means you now have snow-driving superpowers. It doesn’t matter what you’re driving, if you don’t know how to adjust to winter weather.
Now, about those road maintenance companies. I’ve heard from several people whom I consider to be reputable sources, who inform me that these companies are suffering from the same labour shortages impacting so many businesses. It doesn’t matter how many snowplows or grit trucks you have, if there’s no one to drive them.
And it’s not as if they’re not trying. In this area, Dawson Road Maintenance has been recruiting for some time, and last week they offered a two-day air brake certification course gratis/free for anyone who wanted to take it and sign on (the course normally costs $225). As incentives go, it’s not a bad one.
“Just goes to show; people today don’t want to work,” I hear someone mutter. Can we please put this one to rest once and for all? For as long as there has been paid employment available, there has been a substantial portion of the population that wants no part of it. “What is the cause of unemployment and hard times?” asked a newspaper article in 1922. “The manufacturer and business men say it is because nobody wants to work anymore unless they can be paid enough wages to work half of the time and loaf half of the time.” Anyone who thinks there was a golden time in the past where everyone was eager to work and no job went unfilled is fooling themselves.
But back to the main point, which is that winter is here and we can no longer ignore that fact. Please, make sure your vehicle is properly equipped and that you know how to drive safely in snow and ice. And remember, if you don’t need to drive in it, don’t. There’s no shame in staying home, and staying safe. As the old saying goes, I’d rather talk to you than about you.