Being in Canada, we are no strangers to the cold and inclement winter driving conditions. The first major snow fall of the year has hit the Barrie area (our head office/hometown) with snow squall warnings in effect across the Simcoe Region. To many students' chagrin however, the buses were not cancelled and our own in-car instruction resumed as usual. Why? Well, winter driving is a reality of being a driver in Canada, and what better way to prepare for and tackle the winter roads than with a qualified, trained professional during one of our private in-vehicle lessons?
That being said, here are some Winter Driving Tips that are beneficial for everyone driving on the road:
Winter Tires: (not the same as all-season tires). If you don’t have them on already, they are a necessity to navigating Canadian winters. Look for the tires with the winter symbol. They are designated for snowy conditions, provide excellent snow traction performance, handling and according to the MTO: can shorten your braking distance by as much as 25 per cent. If the investment in your safety is not reason enough - drivers with winter tires may also be eligible for an insurance discount.
Maintenance Check-up: Prepare your vehicle for the winter season. Ensure that everything is mechanically sound: engine, battery, oil, lights, brakes, wipers, washer fluid, tire pressure etc. Winter conditions can be unpredictable, but doing your part to prepare yourself and your vehicle will help minimize unexpected bumps and delays on the road.
Be Vigilant: stay aware of your surroundings, scan 360 – especially at intersections and look ahead 15 seconds to anticipate what might be coming up.
Keep a safe distance behind snow plows: Maintain a safe following distance. Trailing too closely behind a snow plow can be dangerous as snow plow drivers have reduced visibility, and create visibility issues for you as well. Passing a snow plow is also dangerous and should be avoided.
Survival Kit: The last thing you want is to be caught unprepared on the side of the road in -25 degree weather. Be sure to pack a winter survival kit with you in the car, some useful things to include: gloves, booster cables, windshield wiper fluid, first aid kit, torch/flashlight, snow brush, candles, safety vest, and water bottle. Have a warm coat and blankets ready if you don’t already.
Braking: Make sure you know and use your braking system in all weather and road conditions. If your vehicle is equipped with an anti-lock breaking system (ABS) do not “pump” the brakes. Let the system do its work.
Emergency Manoeuvres: Know how to regain your vehicle if it skids. This happens from driving too fast or in bad weather conditions.
Consider an advanced driving course with DriveWise that teaches emergency driving skills: It may save lives.
Maintain Space: Increase your following distance and decrease your speed, it takes longer to stop on a slippery road. Do not tailgate; leave enough room between your vehicle and the one in front of you.
Slow Down: Many winter collisions occur because of speed. The posted speed limit is for ideal conditions, but when it snows or is slippery and icy, you should adjust your speed limit. You are more likely to stay in control of your vehicle, avoid skids, collisions and anticipate unexpected obstacles if you slow down.
Do not Text and Drive: distracted driving puts you and yours at risk. It doesn’t matter if you’re stopped at a red light or stuck on a traffic jam on the highway. Simply holding a phone while driving is against the law. If convicted you can face severe penalties. But worse, you’ll endanger yourself and others on the road. Turn off your phone or put it on silent when you are in the car, and if you must respond, pull over to a safe area.