Thursday, May 26, 2011

Driving in the rain

Well, apparently Mother nature doesn't think that we've had enough rain this spring.  April showers bring May rain and probably June down pours at the rate we're going.

There is a lot of standing water on our roads and pathways and over the next couple of days, it is expected to get worse.  So here is a reminder about driving in wet weather.

Wet Weather Driving Tips
How you drive can obviously make a significant impact on wet-weather safety. Be alert to the situation around you, including what other drivers are doing and how they are reacting to conditions. One of the best ways to avoid collisions is to always be prepared for the actions of others that will affect you.
  • Leave yourself more time. Knowing that the drive will take longer prepare ahead of time by leaving for where you need to be earlier, don't try to make up time on the doesn't work and is very dangerous.
  • Slow down before you encounter a problem, and be aware that your tires less grip available for stopping, steering and accelerating. Remember: Even four-wheel-drive and anti-lock brakes can't change the laws of physics.
  • Never use your cruise control.
  • Even a new tire can begin to hydroplane on wet surfaces, so watch your speed. If the steering begins to feel light and the car is splashing through deep puddles, gently reduce your throttle to allow the car to slow to a more manageable speed. Don't lift off the gas pedal abruptly or hit the brakes, since this could unsettle the tires' grip on the wet surface.
  • Don’t drive your car through deep water on a flooded road. You simply cannot tell how deep the water is. It doesn't take much water to disable your vehicle or even float it off of the road surface. If you have any doubt about water depth, stop and go back the way you came.
  • Use the speeds on your windshield wipers to help remove the amount of water that is hitting the windshield. This sounds simple, but some people forget that at higher road speeds you need higher wiper speeds.
  • Be aware of the spray coming from passing trucks and oncoming cars. It may blind you temporarily, so anticipate this by turning on (or increasing the speed of) your wipers and by looking at what's happening to cars ahead of you.
  • Turn down the radio and turn off your cell phone. Driving in heavy rain demands greater attention.
  • If conditions become too intense, pull far off the road to a parking lot or side street and wait it out.
  • If you travel through deep standing water lightly apply your brakes for a moment to dry them.

Preparing Your Car
If you are serious about driving in wet conditions, there are several things you can do to prepare your car:
  • Make sure your wiper blades are like-new and that they still have a sharp wiping edge.
  • Clean your wiper blades by running a damp cloth along their edges from time to time to remove the build-up of oils and debris that the wipers have removed from the windshield.
  • Clean the interior and exterior glass surfaces of your vehicle.
  • If your windshield is heavily pitted, it might be time for a replacement. Nothing lets you see better than a new windshield.
  • Make sure that your headlights and taillights are working properly and that their lenses are clean and your turn on your full lighting package, not just day time running lights.
  • Make sure your tires are inflated to manufacturer's specifications and have sufficient tread. To measure the tread use the ‘Bluenose Test’: place a dime in the tire’s groove with the Bluenose’s Sails facing down . If you can see the top of the Bluenose mass and sails, then your tires have sailed long enough and needs replacing. However, this test will not work with performance or off-road tires.
Don't drive through standing water when pedestrians or cyclists are nearby.  It's bad enough getting wet because of the rain...getting a waterfall thrown at you is just cruel.
Be aware a cyclist may move out of the curb area due to standing water.  No one should drive into standing water for safety reasons, so give them room and know that it is their right as a vehicle on the road to occupy a full lane when necessary.

Be Safe
The biggest factor in safe wet-weather driving is you and your judgment. When visibility drops and the roads become flooded, only you can tell when it is time to pull off and take a break. Sure, it may take you a bit longer to reach your destination, but in the end, the few minutes spent to be safe will be worth it.

Alternatives to Driving
Public transit is the best choice to avoid the need for driving in wet weather. Leave the driving up to someone else.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Parking Offences

There always seems to be some confusion about what no parking actually means.  So let's see if we can clear some of this up.

There are three general on road offences that are regulated by sign.

No Parking
No parking means that you can stop your vehicle for the purpose of letting passengers in or out or dropping off / picking up packages.  This is short term.

No Standing
No standing means that you can stop your vehicle only for the purpose of letting passengers in or out of your car.  You'll find that most TTC Stops for example are in a no standing zone.

No Stopping

Pretty self explanatory.  You can't stop your car for any reason, except if directed by police, break down.

You have to look carefully at signs to determine allowable times since many areas will be governed by multiple signs.  An example of this is a rush hour route.  It may be OK to park in a specific area from 9:30am to 11:30am but then the area becomes a No Standing Zone until 1:30pm.  That same area may then become a No Stopping Zone at 3:30pm to 6:30pm.

Bicycle Lanes
Almost all of them that I have seen are in areas that are governed by No Stopping Signs.  This no stopping anytime regardless of how long or function. (See exceptions)  There is no specific charge for parking in a bike lane.  It falls to the no stopping offence.

Handicapped Spaces
Reserved for vehicles that bear a handicap permit that is visible.  The person that is named on the permit must be using it, or being transported in the vehicle.  In other words, if your elderly parents have a handicap permit and you are using their chauffeur, you can't use a designated space to shop at the mall unless they are physically with you.

Fire Routes
You may think it's no big deal to stop momentarily in them but they are allocated for the express purpose of fire vehicles to use for parking or for access.  Block a fire route and a ticket could be the least of your concerns.

Exemptions from Parking Rules
These are fairly obvious...Emergency Vehicles, (Ambulance, Fire, Police) and Public Works vehicles, all while in the course of their duties.

If your vehicle has received a parking infraction notice, your vehicle is eligible for a ride to a towing pound.  Rush hour routes...say good bye.  We work at keeping these free and clear to facilitate an optimum flow of traffic.
Relocation's occur from time to time for major events or emergency reasons.  Your vehicle won't be far, it's usually moved around the corner, a street over or across the street.  Just call 416-808-2222 and provide your licence plate number and we will be able to pinpoint the location for you.

Resources for more information

Toronto Police
(Caution on towing rates posted on this pdf...they may change. This is not the official rate notice)

City of Toronto

I'm sure there will be questions, so feel free to ask away.  I will answer them or direct you to the best resource for your answer.