Safe Winter Driving Tips

Edited by Admin
Safe Winter Driving Tips

Safe Winter Driving


Most Canadians have experience driving in snow and ice, and even through blizzards. But even the most expert winter drivers should learn new techniques and brush up on tried-and-true ones once in a while. And if you’re a novice driver, knowing some winter driving tips can save your life.


There are a number of ways in which drivers can stay safe in the winter:


  • Prepare: Get your car ready for the weather before it hits. This can include making sure that your battery is fully charged, tuning up your ignition system, making sure that headlights are at full power and properly aimed, servicing the brakes, checking the exhaust system for leaks, adding antifreeze,making sure the heater and defrost systems work, and replacing cracked windshield wipers and winter washer fluid. Of course, it should also include installing and learning about winter tires. These tires are designed for snow, and have a logo with a snowflake and a mountain on them. Don’t mix tires with different treads or size.


  • Watch the Weather: If a storm is expected, stay home. Nothing is worth the risk of driving in dangerous conditions. Go to to check weather conditions before embarking on any winter trip. Environment Canada issues warnings when blizzards, heavy snow, freezing rain, cold snaps, or high winds are expected. Blizzards can be particularly devastating, usually lasting for several hours and resulting in reduced visibility, drifting snow, and high winds. You should also know what the temperature is – snow and ice are more slippery at 0°C than they are at -20°C. You should watch for black ice when the temperature is between -4°C and +4°C.  (Black ice often occurs when the air temperature is warmer than the road temperature. Because of this difference, the liquid moisture in the air freezes as soon as it touches the road. Quick drops in temperature also cause black ice as water on the road has not had the chance to evaporate before the freeze.)


  • Emergency Kit. An accident can happen at any time, but in the winter, it’s especially important to be sure you’re carrying supplies in case of an emergency. Dress warmly, and take a fully-charged cell phone with you. The Canadian Automobile Association suggests carrying a winter survival kit that includes:
    • shovel
    • sand or kitty litter
    • traction mats
    • tow chain
    • compass
    • cloth or roll of paper towels
    • warning light or road flares
    • extra clothing and footwear
    • emergency food pack
    • booster cables
    • matches and a "survival" candle in a deep can (to warm hands, heat a drink or use as an emergency light)
    • fire extinguisher
    • extra windshield washer fluid
    • fuel line antifreeze
    • reflective vest


  • Drive Smart: Don’t drive if bad weather is happening or predicted. Let people know that you’re leaving, and what time they should expect you. Clean all snow and ice off your car properly before setting out, so that you can see and be seen. Stay on major roadways, and don’t speed or drive carelessly. Signal early, to give cars behind you extra warning. Don’t get distracted by texts,programming the GPS or the radio. Avoid aggressive drivers whenever possible. Keep the gas tank as full as possible.


  • Learn Winter Driving Techniques: Slow down whenever there is snow and ice on the road. Know what to do if your car goes into a skid. (Skid control tips include reacting as little as possible and keeping the vehicle headed straight as you pass over the slippery spot. Steer straight, take your foot off the gas, and do not hit the brakes.) Remember that it takes longer for brakes to catch when roads are slippery. Slow down well before stop signs or intersections with lights. Remember not to use cruise control in extreme weather.


When Accidents Happen


If you do get into a winter accident, remember to stay as calm as you can. If your car gets stuck or trapped in a snowbank in extreme weather, don’t try to walk to get help -- you are safer if you stay with the car. Clear any snow from the tailpipe to prevent carbon monoxide from getting into the car, and call for help if possible. Put on all of your warm clothes, especially a hat or toque. Use a survival candle for heat and run the engine as little as possible. Keep a window on the side sheltered from the wind open a bit, to give you a good supply of fresh air. Stay awake and watch for traffic or rescuers; exercise your limbs to keep the blood flowing.


If another car is involved in the accident, get the other driver’s contact and insurance information. If no one is hurt and the cars are road-safe, you can report the collision at a collision centre. Take some photos of the damage to the cars and the location of the accident if possible. Otherwise, call 911 for an ambulance and police and wait for them to arrive.


Safe winter driving is everyone’s responsibility. Make sure you are always prepared when you venture out.