3 tips for safer winter driving

October 9, 2015

It's easy to forget that winter driving requires more skills than driving on dry, summertime pavement. Before the first snow of the season hits – if it hasn't already – here are a few refresher tips on how to stay safe when road surfaces turn slick with ice and slush.

3 tips for safer winter driving

1. Survive skids on ice and snow

  • If you find yourself skidding, don't panic and don't hit the brakes.
  • Take your foot off the gas and steer in the direction that you're skidding.
  • If you must hit the brakes, apply steady but gentle pressure. Don't pump them or allow them to lock.
  • The brakes will likely make some noise, but you should be back in control in no time.

2. Stay calm if you get stranded

If you find yourself stranded, use these tips from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

  • Avoid overexertion and overexposure to the cold.
  • If you can't shovel your vehicle out of the snow — or if you're in blizzard conditions — stay inside the car.
  • Don't leave the car unless help is visible within about 90 metres (100 yards).
  • Turn on flashing lights or set up flares. In daylight, tie a brightly coloured cloth to the antenna to make your car more visible.
  • Run the engine for about 10 minutes every hour to provide heat without burning too much fuel. For safety, make sure the tailpipe is free of snow and crack a window on the side away from the wind.
  • Bundle up in a blanket. Sharing it with another person gives extra warmth.
  • Don't fall asleep. Take turns sleeping if there's more than one person in the car.

3. Make a car emergency kit

Here are the things that can get you out of most car-related jams. Keep them in your trunk or glove compartment so that they're always handy.

  • Maps
  • First-aid kit
  • Flares or emergency lights
  • Jumper cables
  • Paper towels
  • Flashlight, portable flashing light and extra batteries
  • Energy bars (or other non-perishable food)
  • Drinking water
  • Matches and emergency candles
  • Brightly coloured flag, banner or "help" sign

In the winter, add these:

  • Non-clumping cat litter, sand or salt (to provide traction in the snow)
  • Snow shovel
  • Ice scraper/windshield brush
  • Extra clothing and shoes, particularly warm jackets, hats and gloves
  • Windshield wiper fluid and/or de-icing fluid
  • Gas-line antifreeze

When driving in the winter, safety is paramount. Always take your time and give yourself plenty of space on the road. And if you find yourself in an emergency, being prepared is your best line of defence.

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