Driving in a Winter Wonderland

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Driving in a Winter Wonderland

The glistening snow may be a beautiful sight if you happen to find yourself frolicking in a meadow somewhere, but being behind the wheel during or after a snowfall does not have the same appeal.

Canadian winters bring with them slippery road conditions and reduced visibility creating additional driving challenges. However, the ice and snow need not send a chill down your spine when getting behind the wheel.  Here are few tips for driving in winter conditions:

Determine the Necessity of your Trip

We’ve all heard the meteorologists advise that if it is not necessary to drive during extreme winter conditions, then don’t. Sometimes the indoors is the safest place to be during a winter storm and not behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. So ask yourself how necessary it is to be out in those conditions.  Being out on the roads can certainly pose harmful risks if you get involved in an accident or are stranded in the snow.

Be Prepared and Plan Ahead

Being prepared is always a best practice even when it comes to winter driving.  Before heading out into icy conditions pack a bag of necessities that includes: food and water, warm clothing, a warm blanket, a first aid kit, a small shovel, an ice scraper, deicing fluid and some sand.  These are items that will be very useful in the event you become stranded in the snow.  As well always ensure you have a fully charged cell phone.

Do some advanced planning before you leave, review your route and stay on major roadways as much as possible as they will be the first to be cleared therefore lessening the chances of any incidents.

Ensure you have a full tank of gas in the event you need to keep your engine running to stay warm; as well ensure that your oil is topped up and that you are making use of winter windshield washer fluid that contains additives that will keep it from freezing and cracking the pipes.

Have your vehicle fitted with winter tires to improve grip and traction in cold weather.

Be sure to clear ice and snow from your entire windshield, your side and rear windows, and front and rear lights to ensure you have proper visibility.  It is also important to clear the top of your vehicle as well so that big clumps of snow aren’t falling and impairing your visibility and the visibility of those behind you when driving.

The Importance of Headlights

During a snowfall, you should have your headlights turned on to improve your vision and enable other drivers to see you as well.  It is also important to keep your low beam lights on when it’s not snowing as snow clouds and mist can cause light levels to drop.

Maintain your Distance

A general rule of thumb for safe driving is particularly important during winter months and that is maintaining a safe distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Because it may take ten times as long to stop on an ice road as it does on a dry one you need to ensure that you remain at least 20 seconds behind the vehicle in front of you.   This should allow you time to act in the event the car in front of you comes to a sudden stop.

Take it Slow

In addition to maintaining a safe distance between your vehicle and others while driving, it is also imperative to drive at an appropriate speed and be smooth and slow with the use of your controls (steering, throttle and brakes).  Abrupt changes or sudden maneuvers such as sharp steering or braking can unbalance the vehicle and cause tires to lose their grip on slick surfaces causing skidding or spinning wheels.

In the event of skidding, be sure to take your foot off the accelerator and allow the speed to drop by itself until you’ve regained control.  As well avoid using the brakes as this will prolong the skidding and can cause the vehicle to start spinning.   If this happens, steer in the direction of the spin and allow the car to straighten up.

Stay Alert and Aware

Whenever possible try to ensure that the road you are travelling is straight and clear without anyone following, lessening the chances of harm to yourself or others in the event of skidding.  As well, slow down when approaching a turn to ensure you get around it safely without skidding or sliding.

It is also a good idea to maintain a low volume on your radio as your ears will often provide the first indication that you’ve hit a slippery patch as driving through icy and snowy spots will create more tire noise (you will typically hear the roar of snow being kicked up into the wheel arches).

Be aware of the vehicles around you as well such as slow-moving snow ploughs and take extra care if trying to pass them – bearing in mind that the road ahead of them has not yet been cleared. Pay attention to what is going on in front of you, beside you and behind you but concentrate on your own driving and avoid reacting to provocation from other drivers.

Following these tips can help you stay as safe as you possibly can but in the event, you or someone you know is involved in a motor vehicle accident this winter, contact us at The Morris Law Group for assistance.