Blog Winter Driving Tips For Snow, Ice And Cold Weather

Nov 15, 2021

How To Drive Safely In Canada During Winter

car driving on a city street in snow storm

Winter driving seems to catch Canadians by surprise every year. Make this the year you are prepared for whatever winter throws your way on the road.

More than 2,000 deaths and over half a million crashes happen in the winter in North America. Many of these crashes are avoidable. To help you stay safe, we have gathered the top winter driving tips. You'll get advice on how to :

  • Prepare your vehicle for winter
  • Be a wise winter driver
  • Drive safely in winter weather conditions

Follow these tips, and you will be well on your way to a safe driving season.

How To Prepare For Winter Driving

Preparation will help lower stress levels when driving in the winter. Here are five tips to help you prepare for seasonal driving.

Use Winter Tires

Tests show conclusively that winter tires outperform all-season tires. You can improve your car’s braking performance by 35% when using winter tires. Winter tires also improve your fuel consumption, and most insurers offer savings if you use them.

Service Your Vehicle Before Winter

Cold winter conditions are much harder on your vehicle. Schedule your car maintenance appointment with your mechanic to ensure that it is running in optimal condition for winter.

Remove Snow And Ice Before You Drive

It is mandatory to have a clear view of the front and side windows under the Ontario Highway Act. Clearing your windows is much safer and improves your visibility when driving. It is also good to clean your lights to see better and so that other vehicles can see you.

Having excess snow on your vehicle’s hood or roof can be hazardous for you and other drivers. It can impair visibility and be dangerous for vehicles around you if ice or snow falls off. Before the weather turns bad, put scrapers and brushes in your vehicle.

Check And Top Up Windshield Washer Fluid Frequently

Check and top up your windshield washer fluid frequently – it’s not safe to drive with dirty windows. It's a good idea to keep extra washer fluid your vehicle. Always drive with a full tank of gas and ensure other fluids are topped up so you don't break down.

Keep An Emergency Kit In Your Vehicle

It is highly recommended to keep a winter survival kit in your vehicle when driving in winter. Having essential supplies can provide safety and keep you warm and dry if you become stranded in poor weather.

An emergency car kit should include :

  • Shovel, ice scraper, snowbrush
  • Sand or cat litter for a traction aid
  • Booster cables
  • Warning lights or road flares
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Extra windshield washer fluid
  • Blanket and extra warm clothes
  • Non-perishable, high energy foods (unsalted nuts, candy, granola bars)
  • Matches, lighter
  • Candle – candles can provide light and generate some heat while you wait for assistance

Winter Safety Driving Tips

Jeep driving a country road in a snow storm

Once your vehicle is prepared for winter driving, it is time to face the elements. Snow and ice can accumulate quickly, making roads slippery and slow. By following these tips, you can be a safe winter driver if you are an experienced or a new driver.

Give Yourself Extra Time To Arrive At Your Destination

Road conditions in the winter are generally worse than driving in fall or other seasons, which can make trips take longer. It is best to take your time and drive according to the weather conditions. If the conditions are too hazardous, find a safe place to pull over and wait for conditions to improve. It is better to be delayed and arrive safely. Let someone know you are on the road, where you are going and check in when you arrive at your destination.

Check Weather And Road Conditions Before You Drive

Call 511 or check for Ontario road closures online to check provincial driving conditions before you get into your car. Driving in fog also comes with added danger in the winter due to the icy roads.

Learn Winter Driving Techniques Or Take A Winter Driving Course

Driving in winter is unpredictable. Many drivers think that they can handle winter road conditions just because they live in Ontario, but you can always improve your driving ability. You can also take a winter driving course and practice driving defensively.

Make Sure Your Winter Clothes Do Not Restrict Your Driving

When you are driving for long distances helps layer up, but make sure that you still have full mobility to see safety and drive comfortably.

Slow Down And Double Your Stopping Distance In Snowy Conditions

Slow down and adjust your driving speed to match road and weather conditions. You should give yourself enough distance to stop safely in dry road conditions, known as the two-second rule. You should double your distance in slippery or icy conditions – allowing at least a four-second distance between you and the car in front of you.

If you find yourself behind a snowplow, keep extra distance and pass them only when it is safe to do so.

Learn How To Handle Your Car In A Skid In Snow Or Ice

Skids can happen on slippery surfaces such as icy or snow-covered roads. If the car is skidding, steer it in the direction of the skid; steer towards where you want the car to go - do not over-correct. If you are on ice and skidding in a straight line, shift into neutral or step on the clutch. Avoid accelerating and braking when driving or when skidding.

Avoid Overdrive And Cruise Control In Bad Or Snow Conditions

You have less control over your vehicle when you use cruise control. In overdrive, the engine will not help slow your car down.

How To Drive In Blowing Snow

If you end up driving in blowing snow and whiteout conditions, here are some tips to help you drive safely :

  • Have the full lighting system of your vehicle turned on.
  • Use low beam lights – high beams reflect ice particles in snow, making it harder to see.
  • Slow down and drive a speed that suits conditions.
  • Be patient – avoid passing and lane changes.
  • Increase your following distance.
  • Stay alert – look as far ahead as possible and minimize distractions.
  • Do not stop in the travelled portion of the road – it can cause a chain reaction collision.

Winter Driving in Ontario FAQs

Before you head out on the roads this winter, brush up these commonly asked questions :

When driving in the winter, keep in mind that you should :

  • Invest in a set of winter tires.
  • Slow down – roads can be slippery and icy.
  • Be alert – do not drive distracted or tired, and pay attention to what is happening around your vehicle.
  • Avoid using cruise control in poor weather.

If the weather is poor, consider postponing travel for another day.

To help overcome the fear of driving in the winter, remember to slow down, drive defensively, and keep an even longer distance than usual between vehicles. It’s also a good idea to check weather and road conditions before heading off and delaying your departure based on the forecast. Remember, you have Ontario car insurance to rely on if you run into issues on the road.

Driving a vehicle with AWD can improve your driving in the winter but at a minimum. Investing in a new pair of winter tires is the best option for added safety when driving in the winter.

Your vehicle’s engine takes less than 30 seconds to circulate oil throughout the vehicle. Once that happens, you can safely drive your vehicle. According to Natural Resources Canada, to play it safe (and make your drive a bit more enjoyable), you can idle your car for two to three minutes to warm your engine.

Winter driving in winter brings snow, hail, rain, and whiteout conditions. These factors can lead to poor visibility, slippery roads, and black ice.

Drive Safe This Winter

Use the above winter driving tips to keep yourself and other drivers safe this winter. Together, we can all help reduce the number of issues and accidents on the road.

Here Are Some Other Helpful Articles

Car Accident Reporting And What Do After You've Been In An Accident
Slow Down, Move Over For Emergency Vehicles
Driving Rules In Construction Zones

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