Extreme cold has record number of drivers needing assistance

The Alberta Motor Association has received more than 31,000 calls since Sunday

Extreme cold across the province has resulted in an unprecedented volume of calls to the Alberta Motor Association, which has received more than 31,000 roadside assistance requests since Sunday. In some areas, such as rural Alberta, calls about dead batteries are up nearly nine times the average, while Edmonton and Calgary have seen as much as five and a half times the usual volume.

“We’re seeing record numbers of roadside requests, and have called in additional staff – dispatchers, call centre workers, service vehicle operators and contractors – to rescue as many people as possible, as quickly as possible,” says Ryan Lemont, Manager of Fleet Operations for AMA. “But due to the sheer volume, and these dangerously cold temperatures, we urge drivers to put their safety first and seek shelter rather than waiting with their vehicles.”

When the deep freeze first hit on Friday and Saturday, call volumes remained somewhat normal for this time of year. But by Sunday, when temperatures plunged below -40 C in some areas, AMA received 11,135 calls for roadside assistance across the province. On Monday, the trend continued, with 20,029 calls. Those are the highest roadside request numbers on record for a Sunday and Monday. By comparison, this time last year AMA saw 2,879 and 3,448 calls, respectively.

“The safety of our members is our absolute priority,” says Lemont. “We’re prioritizing calls to ensure people in emergency situations receive help as quickly as possible and thank Albertans for their understanding as we work around the clock to reach those in need.”

With weather forecasters saying a reprieve from the cold is still days away, AMA provides the following tips for motorists:

  • Prior to driving, plug in your vehicle for at least four hours when the outdoor temperature is -15C or below. 
  • If you have any doubts about your battery’s health on a cold day, consider alternate transportation until a test is completed or new battery is installed. This could save you from being stranded at roadside in extreme temperatures.*
  • If your vehicle doesn't have a block heater, switching to synthetic oil in the winter will help the engine turn over.
  • Ensure your gas tank is at least half full and consider using gas-line antifreeze.
  • Limit road travel to necessary trips, and make sure you have an emergency roadside kit on hand. It should contain, at minimum, a warm blanket, warm clothing, basic first aid, water, a snow brush, and a cell phone charger.
  • If your vehicle breaks down, your safety comes first. Please get to a warm place and don’t wait in your vehicle, as extreme temperatures make it dangerous to be outdoors (even inside a car).
  • Drive to conditions, keeping in mind that roads are extremely slick and additional stopping distance is required.
  • Ensure your tires are properly inflated, as most tires lose one pound per square inch for every 5C drop in temperature

* Please note that AMA suspends battery testing and battery replacement service during extreme weather. In cold temperatures, components under the hood can become brittle, increasing the risk of damage. The cold temperatures also put our operators at greater risk. But AMA will still provide a boost to get members going, or arrange a tow.

The most up-to-date wait times can be found at ama.ab.ca/alert 

Media clips of Ryan Lemont, as well as AMA Driver Education Manager Rick Lang, can be found below. 

View Ryan Lemont | Prevention
Ryan Lemont | Prevention
View Rick Lang | Caution
Rick Lang | Caution
About AMA

The Alberta Motor Association (AMA) is among the largest membership organizations in Alberta, representing more than 975,000 members. As a leading advocate for traffic safety, travel and consumer protection and crime prevention, AMA represents the interests of its members to industry and all levels of government and helps protect the things they care about most. Visit ama.ab.ca to learn more about AMA’s products, services and member advocacy efforts.