Common sense driving tips to help navigate Canada’s winter

Common sense driving tips to help navigate Canada's winter

Common sense driving tips to help navigate Canada’s winter

Winter can be a season full of surprises, but driving through stormy weather shouldn’t be one of them.

SEE ALSO: Why the Season’s First Snowfall May Take Motorists by Surprise

Despite our yearly dose of harsh winter conditions, many drivers are unprepared to drive in it, so the Young Drivers of Canada have a top 10 list of safety tips for anyone caught cold by the cold season.

“Preparing for the winter season shouldn’t come as a surprise or anything you need to prepare for in Canada,” said Maria Bagdonas, Operations Manager at Young Drivers of Canada, in a recent interview with The Weather Network. “We live here, we expect it to be winter.”

Mark Robinson/The Weather Network: Snowy road, highway, snowfall, winter storm, blizzard, snow.  January 25, 2022

Mark Robinson/The Weather Network: Snowy road, highway, snowfall, winter storm, blizzard, snow. January 25, 2022

(Mark Robinson/The Weather Network)

“A lot of this is common sense, but they say ‘common sense isn’t that common sense anymore,'” she added.

Don’t slack off your guard

Because the first snowfall of the season can be delayed compared to a few years, this may surprise many riders, Bagdonas said.

“People didn’t have winter tires. They hadn’t yet decided on their winter tires. As November 1 approaches, we should start thinking about what we need to get done and when we need to get it done by,” Bagdonas said.

And we need to stay ready to ride all season long, even when winter weather temporarily pushes the pause button.

Snow gusts in Ontario January 10 Mark Robinson

Snow gusts in Ontario January 10 Mark Robinson

(Mark Robinson/The Weather Network)

“It’s very easy when we have a January like we did at the beginning, just to say, ‘Well, that’s it. The winter is over. You know, I don’t have to worry,'” Bagdonas said.

Drivers have different levels of experience and comfort

One of the most important things to remember is that motorists have different driving experiences and comfort levels on the roads, so people behind the wheel need to be patient, especially in winter.

“You have no idea how experienced the driver is at the wheel. They may be driving very, very slowly because this is their first time driving in a snowstorm,” Bagdonas said. “There’s no point in pushing them. All that really does is increase the level of anxiety in the car in front of you. Everyone has to live together.”

Mark Robinson: Winter driving, whiteout, driving snow, blizzard, winter tires

Mark Robinson: Winter driving, whiteout, driving snow, blizzard, winter tires

(Mark Robinson/The Weather Network)

She said drivers need to have an idea of ​​how their car will “behave” on slippery roads in winter. Because of this, it’s important to leave extra space between the cars in front of you, as this acts as a ‘buffer zone’ should anything go wrong.

“There are probably riders out there [that] They have no idea how their car will stop on the surface they’re driving on,” Bagdonas said. “You need traction to drive, stop or turn. And if you don’t have traction or grip, it doesn’t matter what type of tires you have on your car.”

As drivers, there are things we can do to maximize our traction, Bagdonas said, including smooth acceleration and early braking.

“We want to keep the car’s weight balance as even as possible across all four tyres. When you stop, steer or brake, there’s always a shift in weight, but you want to keep that to a minimum and let the tires do their job,” Bagdonas said.

WATCH: When (and how) to winterize your car

Click here to watch the video

The 10 most important safety tips

Courtesy of the Young Drivers of Canada, here are 10 points to consider before hitting the road and throughout your journey.

  1. Check road conditions before driving. Give yourself extra time for the winter commute. Being pressed for time can lead to driving errors when driving on slippery roads, leading to a possible collision.

  2. Avoid driving in bad weather. If you must drive, make sure your vehicle has a full tank of gas and plan ahead. Top up windshield fluid, ensure windshield wipers clean your windshield, and remove any accumulated snow on your vehicle, including the roof and lights.

  3. Plan your route. Tell others your route and estimated travel time, especially if you are going to be traveling a long distance.

“It’s more of a mindset than anything, right? Give yourself a little extra time in the morning to do some of the extra stuff that you might need to do,” Bagdonas said.

  1. Stay on the main roads. Main roads are usually plowed and salted first compared to country or secondary roads. Motorists should always drive according to the road conditions. Avoid sudden acceleration or deceleration. Remember that all vehicles react differently on snowy and icy road surfaces.

  2. leave room. Not every driver can safely react to slippery or icy road conditions. Motorists are encouraged to leave enough space to react to sudden changes in traffic and to plan an escape route in the event of a vehicle skidding or sudden braking by others.

“If you drive in glare,[and] Ice, your tires alone won’t save the day,” Bagdonas said.

  1. Limit the use of cruise control. Cruise control should not be used in snow, wet or icy conditions. If your vehicle skids or floats on an icy or wet surface, your vehicle may attempt to accelerate using cruise control, which could cause a driver to lose control.

(MARK ROBINSON) Snowy night Ontario Highway January 25, 2023

(MARK ROBINSON) Snowy night Ontario Highway January 25, 2023

(Mark Robinson/The Weather Network)

  1. Mount winter tires. Winter tires should always be fitted in sets of four. Tests have confirmed that winter tires provide better traction on cold and icy road surfaces. While other types of tires harden in the cold, the rubber compound of winter tires remains soft and gives vehicles the traction they need on wintry roads.

  2. Pack a winter car survival kit. The kit should include a blanket, non-perishable foods like energy or granola bars, a blanket, a small shovel, jumper wires, flares, and a flashlight. Drivers should also ensure they are dressed for winter conditions and have a heavy coat, gloves, hat and appropriate winter shoes.

  3. Don’t panic if you get stuck. Drivers should be aware that getting stuck in a storm or snowdrift isn’t the end of the world. The first rule is: don’t panic. Drivers should avoid overexerting themselves by attempting to push their vehicle out of the situation. Drivers should remain in their vehicles to avoid exposure to the elements. Running the vehicle’s engine sparingly is a good idea, but drivers must ensure that the exhaust pipe is clear and clear of obstructions including snow. To ensure driver safety, it is necessary to leave the window slightly open to allow a flow of fresh air. Keep an eye out for other vehicles.

  4. Travel with a fully charged phone. A cell phone can tell friends and family where you are and can be used to call for help, but avoid using it while driving as it is illegal and will take your attention off the road.

WATCH: The dangers of driving in winter and how to protect yourself

Click here to watch the video

Above all, always check the road conditions and weather forecast before setting off.

“Pack your patience if the weather is bad,” Bagdonas said. “Have a prep routine and stick to it no matter what the temperature is at the time.”

Thumbnail courtesy of Getty Images.

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