Winter Driving Tips
Winter driving conditions are highly variable and require both a higher level of concentration and an adjustment in driving style. Practice the following tips to steer safely along the roads this winter.
Inspect Your Vehicle
Prepare your car for winter in advance of the season to reduce mechanical problems later. Ensure that the ignition system, battery, tires, wipers, and exhaust and cooling systems are in good condition. Remember to check antifreeze not only for quantity but for strength as well.
Check Your Tires
Winter tires on all four wheels will provide better traction and control in a winter emergency when those extra few metres of stopping distance are needed. Tire pressure should be checked at least once a month as it will vary with the temperature.
Stock Your Trunk
Stock your trunk with basic winter accessories such as a long-handled scraper and snow brush, a supply of windshield washer fluid, booster cables, a shovel, reflective cones, a flashlight, a first aid kit, a blanket, and kitty litter for traction.
Secure In-Vehicle Objects
In instances when you have to brake hard, loose objects become projectiles which can injure or kill as they fly around your vehicle. Put briefcases, laptops, or any other loose objects in the trunk to be safe.
Remove the snow and ice from your vehicle’s roof, hood, trunk, headlights, rearlights, and all windows front and back. Cars that are half-covered with snow pose a hazard to the vehicles behind. Remove bulky clothing and clean your boots. Don't wait until you are blinded by someone's spray; turn your windshield wipers on before you need them to maintain visibility.
Practice Safe Acceleration
To reduce wheel spin on slippery/icy roads, start in second gear and gently squeeze the gas. If you drive a rear wheel vehicle, get started by putting the parking brake on partially in order to fool the differential into sending power to both rear wheels instead of only one.
Increase Your Following Distance
In good weather your following distance is a minimum of two seconds in the city and three on the highway. However, when the weather conditions are less than ideal and it’s more difficult to stop, you should increase your following distance and adjust your speed accordingly.
Look well ahead at the edge of the pavement and at the centre of your lane when returning to the road.
Hold the steering wheel firmly at 10 and 2 o'clock for stability.
Maintain steady pressure on the gas whenever possible especially in a front wheel drive vehicle in order to pull through the gravel.
Over 90% of all collisions are caused by driver error. In order to stay out of collisions you need to keep space around your vehicle at all times. Keep a space cushion in front, behind and on both sides in order to always have an escape route open and be prepared to use it.
Maintain Control When You Hit Ice
Remember two things if you start to lose control: shift into neutral (or put in the clutch if you have a standard transmission), and take your foot off the gas. Then look well ahead and steer immediately to keep the vehicle straight. Once under control, steer in the direction you want to go.
Light Up at Night
Whenever possible, use high beams at night. When you switch to low beams for approaching vehicles, put them back up just as the approaching vehicle is passing because this is the worst time for you to spot a problem.
These are just some of the winter driving tips that Young Drivers teaches students in its Novice Program. We also offer Winter Driving Programs for licensed drivers.