The extremes of winter driving: tips and resources for safe driving this season

By Kathryn Dunmore, Canadian Red Cross

I love driving – even going so far as to get my motorcycle driver’s licence to take this lifelong love to two wheels – but I hate winter driving. This may seem extreme, but winter conditions here in Canada can add variables beyond our control; and as I’ve had my fair share of winter driving mishaps, I know how important it is to take the steps to be prepared to control what we can.

Be prepared for winter driving with these safety tips and resourcesWhen I was a teenager, I got my driver’s licence in the snow; I felt I mastered my country’s naturally-given challenges in enjoying driving in winter months.  But as I’ve learned over the many moons since that young cockiness, in our Canadian winter, there are many additional variables, such as road conditions, car readiness and knowledge, that need to be considered for safe driving.

With winter weather a factor in many preventable collisions, here are some tips to minimize your risk when driving this winter:

  • Prepare your vehicle for winter weather by taking care of seasonal maintenance in the fall.
  • Invest in a full set of winter tires and keep them on your car for the duration of the season. Winter tires are not just for snow, they are designed to perform better and give you improved traction in cold temperatures.
  • Check tire air pressure frequently, as it decreases in cold weather.
  • Ensure you have an emergency kit for your vehicle and keep essential supplies in your vehicle, such as first aid kit, flashlight, blanket, small shovel, sand/kitty litter (for traction), booster cables, extra windshield fluid, a snow brush/ice scraper, an extra set of mittens or gloves, warm hat and boots.
  •  Keep your gas tank at least half-full at all times throughout winter.
  •  Carry a fully-charged cell phone and use it only when safe. Do not use while driving unless your device is hands-free.

I’ve had the misfortune of having two collisions and both were in winter conditions. Although not technically my fault, I couldn’t help to think how I can be better prepared. Sometimes gaining knowledge can help counteract our natural instincts in winter driving – here are some tips:

  • It takes longer to stop on snow-covered or icy roads—reduce your speed and leave ample distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you.
  • Allow extra travel time to your destination and extra time and space to change lanes and turn safely.
  • Slow down enough to avoid any abrupt turns or stops, which can result in a skid.
  • In a skid, drivers need to act contrary to their instincts, steer into the skid and accelerate to regain control of their vehicle.

See more of these tips for Safe Winter Driving – and download Red Cross’ free First Aid app to have resources for emergencies at your fingertips!

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