Winter Driving – Tips to Keep You and Your Family Safe

No matter how long you have lived in Canada, winter driving will always have its challenges. How you handle your vehicle during difficult weather conditions is what can save you and your family from possible tragedy.

Winter driving isn’t as difficult as people may think. It just requires more concentration, caution and awareness in order to be successful. It is important to slow down sooner than you would in ideal weather conditions and to make sure you leave enough room in front of you should you need to brake suddenly.

It is also crucial to ensure your car is running at its optimal performance in order to avoid becoming stranded in frigid temperatures that could put you in danger of frostbite or worse.

Did you know? If you have a car accident resulting from a weather related incident such as slippery roads, those are considered at fault and your insurance premiums may be at risk? Below are some tips to help you master winter driving.

  • Check your battery - a good battery will make sure your car starts in cold temperatures. If your battery is nearing the end of its life, do not put off replacing it until you are stranded in the cold with no blankets, hats or mitts!
  • Fill up your tank - keep your gas tank full – it makes your car heavier, giving it better traction. Near-empty gas tanks are also more susceptible to condensation which can lead to the fuel lines freezing - preventing your car from starting.
  • Install winter tires - winter tires show their superiority when temperatures drop below 7 degrees Celsius, even when the roads are clear! Winter tires are made from a softer rubber compound which results in less stiffening than an All Season tire when the temperatures get cold. Stiffening means a smaller section of the tire touches the road – leaving you with less traction.

Black Ice - The Invisible Culprit

Black ice forms most often at night and early in the morning when the temperatures are at their lowest or when the sun isn’t around to warm the roads. If the roads look wet or shiny but there is little or no water spray from vehicles, it is most likely black ice.

Black ice forms more easily on bridges, overpasses, and roads beneath overpasses. It is also more commonly found on roads less travelled and tree lined routes where less sunshine gets through.

Patches are typically 6 metres or less, so if you’re prepared, you’ll get past it quickly.

What to do when you hit black ice

  • As difficult as it is in a stressful situation, it is most important to remain calm and avoid overreacting. Do as little as possible and allow the car to pass over the ice
  • If you need to brake, be sure to hit the breaks when you are in a straight line, do it before you start turning your wheel and try to make it as smooth as possible.
  • If you do apply the brakes and your vehicle has anti-lock braking (ABS), just apply firm pressure and the car will pump the brakes for you. If you do not have ABS then pump the brakes gently as you skid.
  • Lift your foot off the accelerator
  • If you can, shift into a lower gear to slow your vehicle and give more control.
  • Putting the vehicle into neutral or stepping on the clutch will help you slow down and regain control.
  • Try to head for areas of cleared pavement that have more traction.
  • If you feel the back end of your vehicle sliding left or right, make a gentle turn in that same direction.
  • If you struggle against the slide by steering in the opposite direction, you risk spinning out.

It isn’t difficult to drive in winter conditions, it just takes a little more time and preparation to get where you’re going safely.