Staying safe during winter driving season is a great way to avoid claims and help keep a clean driving record to maintain the best possible insurance rate. Here’s some tips for safely navigating the roads this winter:
- Before winter hits, make sure your vehicle is ready. Winter tires are a must. One of the best ways to stay safe on the roads during winter is to install four winter tires. They not only provide better traction under icy or snowy conditions, they allow you to stop 40 per cent sooner than all-season tires which significantly improves your vehicle’s handling and your chance to avoid collisions.
Before winter hits, it’s also important to check your vehicle’s battery, belts, hoses, radiator, coolant/antifreeze, oil, lights, brakes, exhaust system, heater/defroster, ignition system and tires.
Also, be sure to have a snow brush/scraper in your vehicle, along with an emergency preparedness kit, a lightweight shovel, battery jumper cables, a flashlight and extra salt, sand or grip treads for vehicles.
Before you hit the road, make sure you have a GPS device, a traditional map and have considered an alternate route to your destination in case roads are closed. Always carry a fully-charged cell phone.
- Check the weather before you go. Before you head out, it’s important to check your local weather forecast and especially heed warnings from Environment Canada for your area.
- Drive according to the road conditions. Speed limits are for ideal road conditions, but may be too fast on snow-covered or icy roads. Driving too fast is the main cause of winter collisions. Adapt to your surroundings and slow down when conditions are poor to allow more time and distance for stopping. The Canada Safety Council advises the following tips for safe winter driving:
- Pay attention and avoid distractions. Having a complete focus on driving your vehicle is absolutely paramount in the winter. Manoeuvres are more difficult to make in the snow. Be sure to anticipate what your next move is going to be to give yourself lots of room for turns and stopping.
- Don’t make any abrupt turns or stops that often cause your vehicle to lose control and skid.
- Don’t tailgate. Stopping takes longer on ice or snow-covered roads than dry surfaces.
- Brake before making turns.
- Learn how to control skids. When skidding, you need to go against your natural instincts and turn into the skid and accelerate. Doing so transfers your vehicle’s weight from the front to the rear and often helps vehicles to regain control.
- Don’t use cruise control. If your car skids during poor winter road conditions, cruise control may cause your vehicle to accelerate.
- Don’t “pump” the brakes if you have anti-lock brakes. Apply constant pressure and let the system do its work.
- Maintain your vehicle during winter. Your tires are a critical part of maintaining your safety. It’s important to inspect your tires and check your tire pressure a least once a month in cold weather.
Also, be sure to inspect your wiper blades regularly and even keep a replacement set in your vehicle along with an extra jug of window-washer fluid.
Keeping your vehicle as clean as possible during the winter is also important. This helps keep your windows clear for the best possible visibility, but also helps keep rear-view cameras clear and important sensors — such as those that control advanced driver assist technology — functioning properly.
Keeping your gas tank at least half-full is also important. Aside from the fact that getting stranded somewhere in the winter would be terrible, keeping plenty of gas in your tank ensures your vehicle will start. Condensation can form in your fuel tank when it’s not full, and when that condensation has the chance to freeze, it can keep your vehicle from starting.