The majority of drivers on Canada's west coast admit to being the country's worst when it comes to winter, a new survey suggested, but many said they also do little to prepare.

A poll conducted by Insights West for BCAA found that the 52 per cent of British Columbian motorists surveyed said they felt that local residents were the country's worst drivers when it comes to snow and other winter conditions. Just over one-third said they disagreed, and 11 per cent said they were "Not sure."

But nearly one-third of more than 700 drivers surveyed also said they don't prepare for winter driving because they consider themselves to be a good driver. A third also said they wouldn't prepare for winter driving until it actually snows.

The survey asked about the following methods of preparation: getting your vehicle serviced, putting a roadside emergency kit in your car, putting winter tools (snow brush, shovel, extra gloves, blanket, etc.) in your car, checking weather reports before leaving and researching alternative modes of transportation.

The majority of drivers, 71 per cent, said winter driving was not a concern for them because they believe it "doesn't snow much where they live."

However, the larger problem is that winter weather can hit unexpectedly and many don't think about winter driving until it's too late, according to Stu Miller, BCAA senior manager of automotive operations.

Last week, several truckers failed the first real test of winter driving this season when a heavy snowstorm passed over part of an upper elevation highway, bringing traffic to a standstill. Truckers chained up their tires, but not until after they got stuck on Highway 97C.

Miller said the issue is especially prevalent in the Lower Mainland, where snow is unusual and drivers are often caught off-guard. Miller has been working in the business for 20 years, and said he sees unprepared drivers all the time.

In Metro Vancouver, the average number of roadside assistance calls can double during snowy or cold weather, compared to an increase of between 40 to 60 per cent province-wide. He added that sleet, icy roads, heavy rain and longer hours of darkness can also create dangerous conditions.

The World Meteorological Organization and Environment Canada are forecasting a stormier winter, but many drivers polled (31 per cent) said they don't believe the reports.

The survey showed that 64 per cent of drivers said they are experienced but worried winter drivers, while 45 per cent said they consider themselves experienced but bad at driving in winter conditions.

Almost eight-in-ten surveyed said they agreed to the statement, "I am a good winter driver – it's other motorists I worry about."

Nearly half said they're nervous about driving in snow but do it anyway, and a third said they "freak out a bit" when they have to drive in the snow. More than 60 per cent said they would not avoid driving by using other methods of transport or staying home in bad conditions.

The poll also showed 68 per cent said they thought all B.C. drivers should use winter tires, but only 29 per cent said they keep their vehicle stocked with a winter roadside emergency kit.

In addition to releasing the results of the survey, BCAA issued the following tips to help drivers stay safe on the roads:

  • Get a vehicle check-up before the cold weather sets in
  • Carry an emergency winter driving kit and chains in your car
  • Clear all snow and ice from windows and lights before driving
  • Drive at slower speeds, leave more room between your vehicle and others, and signal well in advance of a turn
  • Check road and weather conditions before leaving
  • Don't drive in poor conditions if you don't have the skills or if you're nervous

The survey results are based on an online study conducted Oct. 28 to 30, of 728 adult residents of British Columbia who have a valid driver's licence. Respondents all drive at least one hour a week.

The results are considered to be accurate within 3.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Detailed results of the survey are available online.

Wondering whether you should choose all-season tires or winter tires? Ross McLaughlin tested them out last week.