By Ian Brannan

It was 2003 and I was 22 years old when I got my drivers license. It had been nearly eight years since I had received my learners permit. Even though I had been legally allowed to drive I didn’t actually have a lot of experience actually driving.

In the span of 10 years since receiving my license, I have found myself in five accidents, some of which were my fault, some of them not. While this does not bode very well for me, it has taught me a few things about driving, especially in bad winter weather.

I drive a taxi for a living as well, so while I am not a driving instructor I have learned there are more than a few things that people can do during and after an accident to reduce chances of injury and decrease the stress level.

I find that the weather in Ottawa leads to a variety of difficulties that can lead to accidents with other vehicles both moving and stationary. In most parts of Canada in winter, the biggest problem I find is black ice, when ice forms on roads in such a way that it blends perfectly in with the road. It is dangerous because it is difficult to detect, making it one of the biggest factors in accidents.

Being calm when you get into a situation where your car will not stop, keep your feet off the brake and gas pedals, and allow the car to slow on its own helps I find. I also agree with which says that the steering wheel should be kept straight. In my experience when you feel the back end of your car sliding left or right, make a gentle turn of the steering wheel in the same direction of the slide. If you fight the slide by steering in the opposite direction, you risk skidding or spinning out.

The second major problem driving in the winter is severely reduced visibility. Avoiding problems in this situation is just slowing down and paying attention to your surroundings. My advice is if you are uncomfortable driving in particular weather, pull over and don’t risk it.

In my five accidents, luckily, no one was seriously injured but it is difficult for everyone involved, and that stress goes up with the more cars involved. I had to start by checking a few things. First and most important was making sure that everyone in the vehicle I was in was okay, if there is anybody complaining of pains in their back or their neck. I made sure not to move them and told them not to move until we got some help.

Turning the car off and making sure it was safe to be around, that gas wasn’t spilled around the vehicle, was really the biggest concern. I was then concerned about other people involved in the accident.

I called the police, and if needed, the ambulance services, right away. It will take them time to arrive on scene and as far as I have seen it could take as long as 15 to 20 minutes for them to arrive.

I always took down everyone’s information, and after calming down, called my insurance company from the scene. Doing so helped get the insurance process started quickly, and they were able to help me faster than the police were able to.

Just remember a life is more important than a vehicle, and keeping a calm head during and after an accident will help in the case of an accident.