Winter Driving Tips for Canadians

Edited by Admin
Winter Driving Tips for Canadians
Winter driving can be difficult but being prepared and knowing what to do will help to keep you safe. Explore these winter driving tips. 
Winter Driving
Canada is famed for its beautiful winters and most of us embrace the season’s pleasures, such as skiing, skating, and tobogganing. In winter the stars glow brighter, and a cozy night in with a cup of hot cocoa can seem like heaven. But the downside to winter is: winter driving. Sometimes we need to get from one place to another, even though road conditions or weather conditions (or both) are poor. Here are a few tips for staying safe on the road this winter.

Be Prepared

Get your vehicle winter-ready. Before going anywhere, make sure that your car is up for the drive. Give it a complete checkup, making sure to check the following:

Electrical system. Charge or replace the battery; check ignition wires and the distributor cap, and make sure all your lights are functioning properly.
Tires. Change from regular tires to snow tires with good treads. Get a wheel alignment and balance the tires correctly. Check tire pressure regularly. Use chains or studded tires if you expect to be travelling on rough terrain.
Exhaust system. Check the exhaust system. Keep snow away from the exhaust pipe. 
Heating system. Check heating hoses for cracks and make sure heater and defrost systems work. Fill up with antifreeze. 
Wipers. Replace worn windshield wipers and fill the reservoir with antifreeze fluid.
Fuel. Check the fuel system and gauge. Fill up before leaving on a trip, and never let the tank get too low.

Make sure that your car has a well-stocked winter emergency kit. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety suggests that you include items such as:

Bag of sand or salt (or kitty litter).
Tow rope. 
Traction mats.
Snow shovel.
Snow brush.
Ice scraper.
Booster cables.
Warning devices such as flares or emergency lights.
Fuel line de-icer.
Extra antifreeze windshield wiper fluid.
Roll of paper towels.
Flashlight and a portable flashing light (and extra batteries).
Extra clothing, including hat and wind-proof pants, and warm footwear.
First aid kit.
Snack bars and water.
Matches and emergency candles.
Road maps

It might also be a good idea to carry some fully charged portable phone chargers.

In addition to these preparations, before leaving:

Plan your route ahead of time and let someone know the details. Calculate your estimated time of arrival and call when you reach your destination.
Check with weather services and highway departments re: weather and road conditions. Postpone your trip if necessary.
Wear warm and comfortable clothing and sunglasses if needed. 
Warm up the vehicle before leaving and scrape all the snow and ice from the windows.

Driving Techniques
Practicing safe driving techniques is important during any kind of weather, but you should use extra caution when roads may be icy or are covered with snow. First and foremost, in winter you should drive more slowly. The speed limits posted on Canadian roads are intended for ideal weather conditions. When roads are slippery, or visibility is poor, you must slow down. Travelling at slower speeds allows you more time to react in emergency situations, and that can make a great difference if you encounter black ice, or if an intersection is slippery. (Take extra care when you approach bridges. Steel and concrete bridges cool down faster than roads and are therefore more likely to be icy.) When planning your trip, remember that you’ll be driving more slowly -- allow extra travelling time when working out estimated arrival times.

In addition: Don’t use cruise control. Drive with your headlights on low; this makes your vehicle more visible than using merely the running lights. Leave more space between your car and the vehicle ahead of you. Don’t try to change lanes quickly and keep your steering style smooth. Be patient, and don’t attempt to pass other cars unless you’re sure you have more than enough time. Stay back a safe distance from snow plows -- and never try to pass a snow plow.

However, despite all precautions, you may encounter difficulty on the road. If you start to skid, don’t panic, and don’t brake. Look at where you want the car to be and steer in that direction. If you happen to go into the ditch, again, don’t panic! Get out and assess the situation. Can you get back on the road by shovelling or using traction mats? If you are unable to shovel your way out, clear snow from around the exhaust pipe and remain with the car, unless help is very near and easy to get to. Turn on your flashers and run the car for approximately ten minutes once an hour to help keep you warm while you wait for help. (Remember to roll your window down a crack.) Bundle up in warm clothes and a blanket; share blankets if possible. Your emergency candle can provide both light and heat. Exercise as much as possible to help your circulation. Watch for emergency vehicles and flag one down if it’s safe to do so.

Be prepared, drive safely, and know what to do in case of emergency. And enjoy Canada’s beautiful winter season!