When most people imagine roadway accidents, they think of busy highways and collisions that derail hundreds of cars for hours. But as data from Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) attests to, one of the biggest threats to driving safety actually comes from a far different sort of roadway.
MPI has found that an average of nearly 500 people suffer injury and approximately 14 are killed every year in crashes on Manitoba's gravel roads. There are an estimated 3,200 gravel road crashes reported there every year and 38 per cent are alcohol-related while at least 20 per cent are caused by speeding.
"Driving on gravel roads can present unique challenges for all drivers, but particularly for new drivers who may not be accustomed to how even small steering wheel movements can result in loss of control," said Ward Keith, vice president, business development and communications and chief administrative officer at MPI.
To better combat this dangerous risk, MPI has partnered with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to put together an awareness and enforcement campaign. The partnership reportedly began in April and will continue through the fall, at minimum. Keith indicated some of the initiatives that the program will be characterized by.
"Enhancements to the high school driver education program will expose all new teen drivers to both in-class instruction and practical on-road training on how to properly control their vehicle on gravel, and the importance of driving to road and weather conditions," he said.
What driving safely on gravel roads really comes down to is bringing a heightened level of care to all maneuvers and actions taken. MPI recommends the following tips: ensuring that all vehicle occupants are properly restrained with seatbelts, slowing down upon the transition between a paved to a gravel surface, avoiding swerves and sudden changes in direction, not making any sudden changes in direction or speed if the driver loses control, doing one's best to drive in the tracks of other vehicles, and keeping a good distance between vehicles in order to prevent dust from obscuring vision.