After being cooped up all winter, Toronto residents can feel the warmer weather starting to beckon them from their homes. It’s a time for caution in any year, but even more than most in this year.
As businesses slowly begin to reopen and stay-at-home restrictions start to ease, if you’re wondering if it’s safe to get out of the house, you’re not alone. After months of staying at home, getting out and about can be a bit of a shellshock. If that’s the case, jumping in behind the wheel too quickly can have disastrous consequences.
Jumping Back In
Navigating the Toronto streets can be hazardous in the best of conditions. With over 6 million residents moving about, there is always the possibility of having an automobile collision. After a time of driver inactivity, the chances of having a car accident are even higher.
For many drivers who have been furloughed or are working from home, there’s a good chance that their cars have gone for weeks without being driven, quietly becoming more hazardous as they sit idle.
Mechanics recommend firing up your car once a week or so, even for a short jaunt to the store or around the block, to keep your vehicle in working condition. But many drivers have not taken the time to do this, and they climb back into their cars as though they never left. They don’t realize that their actions may make them a danger to everyone else on the road.
An Ounce of Prevention
Drivers often fail to realize the sheer destructive force they are taking into their hands every time they get behind the wheel. To prevent taking risks that may cause harm to others, before resuming driving after an absence, all drivers should:
- Inspect the car. Before starting the car, or even getting into it, drivers should take a walk around the outside of their vehicles and do a visual inspection. Objects may have blown underneath your vehicle or around the wheels and debris may have gathered on the windows or windshield. Checking under the hood would reveal if animals have made a home underneath and if leafs have accumulated on the engine.
- Check the tires. It’s not unusual to find that one tire has gone flat from a slow leak while it was parked, or that the tires are underinflated or have developed flat spots. High performance tires, in particular, tend to develop flat spots more frequently. This is due to the softer, more flexible rubber allows for better handling and helps cars get a better “grip” on the road. Drivers who get on the road with flat spots or underinflated tires may not be able to handle their vehicles as well or be more prone to a tire blowout.
- Check the windshield wipers. After a long period of inactivity, the windshield wipers may be damaged or broken, or the wiper fluid may have run dry. Without functioning wipers, even a small bit of water or other substance on the windshield can impair or impede visibility.
- Be cautious when breaking. When moisture in the air collects on unpainted iron, the oxygen in the air reacts to create iron oxide, commonly known as rust. When vehicles sit for long periods of time without being driven, even in a garage, rust can form on the rotors, impairing braking ability.
Any driver who does not have sufficient knowledge to perform a safety check on his or her vehicle should take it to be evaluated by a professional. All drivers are responsible for the safety of their vehicles. If a vehicle is not properly maintained, it can quickly become a road hazard.
Stay Alert on Familiar Routes
Most drivers pay close attention when they are navigating unfamiliar roadways but tend to drive their time-worn paths on autopilot. This is a dangerous habit, as many studies have shown that many automobile accidents happen within a mile of the drivers’ homes.
After a period of not driving, however, the danger becomes much more real. Toronto ramped up road construction to take advantage of fact that there were far fewer cars on the road, and the changes are significant, such as:
- Familiar roads may be temporarily closed
- Construction may have changed or widened the road layout
- Cars may now be able to enter where they couldn’t before
- Signs may have changed
- Turns that were part of the plan before may now be illegal or impossible
Before heading out on the road again, drivers should check out traffic news to find out if there’s anything new that they should know about. It’s also a good idea to leave earlier than usual to allow for unexpected delays due to changes in the road and the traffic that is driving on it. Trying to navigate through a new traffic pattern is much more dangerous when the drivers are in a rush.
Take It Easy
Drivers who have been staring at nothing but the four walls of their home for an extended period of time need to ease off the brake a bit slowly.
Being cooped up for weeks or months affects everyone’s lives, ways of interacting with the world and more. It took time to adjust to the “new normal”. It will take some time for everyone to adjust to being back.
Drivers who rush back into driving too soon or move at the speed that they used to move, even when they feel uncomfortable, put themselves and everyone else on the road at risk. Others may feel anxious about being out and exposed after being quarantined, which could set them on edge, making them more emotional—and rash—than usual.
Focus on the Road
After a long period of being away, many people have gotten used to having their phones as a constant accessory. It lives in their hands, ready to answer a question, provide a funny video or connect them with the world that they missed so very much.
They may feel tempted to keep their phone involved in the driving process, be it talking, texting, looking something up or fiddling with the GPS. Notifications that became a lifeline during quarantine are now a dangerous temptation for drivers who can no longer bear to be disconnected.
Looking at a phone while driving is incredibly dangerous. It can:
- Reduce manual dexterity. When one of the driver’s hands is occupied with the phone, it can’t be in its safest position on the steering wheel.
- Reduce concentration. If drivers are thinking about finding the answer to a question or responding to a text, their minds are on interacting with the device, not driving the car in the safest manner possible.
- Provide a visual distraction. Eyes that are on a device can’t see obstructions in the roadway or keep a car driving straight.
Drivers who eat, fix their hair or makeup, change the music, turn to chat with passengers or do anything other than drive the car are taking a much bigger risk with their lives and the lives of everyone around than they may even realize.
Accidents can happen anywhere, at any time, and drivers need to stay aware and alert of their surroundings.
Watch Out for Pedestrians and Motorcycles
After being forced to stay inside after a long winter, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged, “We know that you can’t prevent Canadians from going outside when the weather is nice.”
Toronto residents take to the streets to soak in the warmer weather, turning out in force on sunny days. Motorcycle riders also take this opportunity to break their mounts out of the garage and go for a spin.
When drivers who are dealing with adjusting to being back on the road end up facing motorcycle riders and walkers who also need reorienting, everyone needs to slow down and pay attention.
Adding to the variables drivers face is ActiveTO, a program created to give Toronto residents the space they need to get around while maintaining social distancing from others.
- Quiet streets. The City of Toronto has planned for over 50 km of streets to be designated as “quiet streets” during the initial rollout of the program. Signs and temporary barricades will be placed in neighbourhoods to block through-traffic and open space up for people to walk, run, ride bicycles and use wheelchairs.
- Closing major roads for active transportation. Major streets adjacent to popular hiking trails will be closed to automobile traffic on weekends and holidays to provide more space for walking and cycling to alleviate congestion on the hiking trails and allow for social distancing.
- Expanding the cycling network. Toronto is planning to install approximately 25 kilometres of new bikeways—the largest one-year expansion of on-street bike lanes Toronto has ever planned. When finished, Toronto bikers will be able to cycle approximately 40 kilometres in lanes. Bikeway installations will be adjustable, so they can be adjusted for changing traffic volumes and the evolving needs of residents and businesses.
With so many residents out and about on the streets, street closures and changes in traffic flow, it is vital that drivers ensure that they are slowing down and driving safely.
How Do I Find the Best Toronto Car Accident Lawyer?
If you have been injured in a car accident during COVID-19, we can help you. Whether you were a driver, motorcycle rider or pedestrian, you need an attorney who can investigate every possibility for your claim.
At Claim Accident Services, we take the time to listen to all of the details of your accident and connect with the lawyer that best fits your needs.
Call us today to find out how we can help you get the compensation you deserve.