Winter in Canada can be terrifying, especially for those who have never driven in snow. As Canada enters the winter season, many areas have already seen their first snowfall.
6 Winter Driving Safety Tips
We’ve got some useful winter driving tips for everyone, whether you’re driving in snow for the first time or a seasoned driver looking for a quick refresher.
conditions vary by city in Canada, we’ve compiled a list of winter driving tips to help you get through the coldest season of the year safely.
Winter driving season in Canada is just getting started, and most areas in the True North will have snow and ice on the roads for up to six months.
Each province has its own set of winter driving conditions, including whether or not winter tires are required, and driving in the winter is vastly different from driving in the fall, spring, and summer.
These tips can help keep you safe as you navigate our cold Canadian climate, whether you’re in the blustery Maritime provinces, the frigid Prairies, or the temperate GTA or Vancouver areas.
During a Canadian winter, driving on snowy, icy roads is almost unavoidable. However, many drivers lack the necessary skills and knowledge to drive in icy conditions.
But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with a few simple but important winter driving tips, beginning with how to control your car when it slides in slippery conditions.
Tips for Driving in the snow
When there’s a snowstorm outside, it’s best to stay off the roads. However, if you live in a province where the roads are constantly covered in snow and ice, staying off the roads is unrealistic. Here are some safety and security tips for driving on snow and ice.
1. Remove any Ice and Snow from your Vehicle
If you’re going for a drive and it’s windy, snowing, or cold outside, make sure your car is clear to ensure clear visibility from the driver’s seat. Brush off all of your car’s windows, hood, taillights, and headlights.
Failure to clear snow from the roof may result in it falling onto your windshield as you slow down, which is a fineable offense in some provinces.
Freezing weather conditions can cause ice to form on the surface of your vehicle. If ice is difficult to scrape off your windows, de-ice spray is an excellent solution.
Lift your wipers when you park your car to prevent them from freezing to the windshield.
2. Maintain your Composure and Control when the going gets slippery
When it’s snowy or icy, never slam on the brakes.
Pumping the brakes will help you stop faster and without sliding if you need to stop quickly. If your vehicle has a modern braking system, you may have felt or heard the anti-lock braking system (ABS) engage, assisting you in stopping in slippery conditions by rapidly pumping the brakes.
Downshifting through the gears instead of using the brakes can help slow your car down if it has a standard transmission.
This comes in handy, especially when descending a hill. Just be careful not to feather the clutch as you release it, or you’ll start a skid.
When driving on snow and ice-covered roads, never hard brake or accelerate while turning a corner. If you start sliding as you brake into a corner, let off the brakes and turn your steering wheel in the desired direction.
When your front wheels lose traction, you experience a front-wheel skid, also known as understeer. If you do begin to skid:
- Don’t freak out; instead, stay calm. Slamming on the brakes (or the gas) will only aggravate the situation.
- Instead of quickly accelerating or turning, let the traction on your tires steer the vehicle without touching the brake or gas pedals.
- Steer in the desired direction.
- It’s safe to re-accelerate once you’ve passed through an icy patch.
If you’re driving on a backroad or a street that hasn’t been sanded or salted, keep in mind that you could skid. Keep your steering wheel as straight as possible while braking lightly.
Oversteer occurs when your back wheels slide due to ice and your car begins to spin. To correct a rear-wheel skid, do the following:
- Take your foot off the gas.
- Turn your steering wheel into the slide to straighten out your car. It will stop the skid and return you to full control of your vehicle.
- Remember that over-steering can exacerbate the problem, so keep a level head to avoid a knee-jerk reaction.
3. Maintain a Safe distance
Other drivers who are either inexperienced on snowy roads or do not have the proper tires installed are a major hazard when driving in a snowstorm.
Take it slowly. Distance between vehicles is critical when driving in a snowstorm because you need enough space and time to safely brake.
You can easily lose traction if you slam on the brakes, so keep your speed down and let other drivers pass you if they choose to tailgate or drive faster.
4. Prepare Ahead of time to ensure your winter driving safety.
Don’t underestimate how simple it is to lose control of your vehicle in bad weather. Here are a few final reminders as we approach winter:
- Stick to major roads
During a snow or ice storm, your town or city’s snowplows and salt trucks will most likely prioritize main roads over back roads and side streets.
If you must drive in winter conditions, stick to main roads to avoid unplowed and unsalted roads. This will reduce your chances of being involved in a vehicle-related accident caused by poor road maintenance.
- Observe and be observed
One of the best ways to avoid an accident is to make sure you’re visible to all motorists and pedestrians on the road. Maintain a safe distance between other vehicles and make sure your headlights are turned on and clear of snow.
Other vehicles in your blind spot can be difficult to see, especially during a snowstorm. Slow down and keep an eye out for any type of movement on the road.
- Avoid driving in extremely bad weather.
If you check the weather and it’s bad outside, you should probably avoid getting behind the wheel. It is best to wait until a snowstorm has passed or until you are certain that road maintenance vehicles have recently visited the area.
5. When driving in freezing rain, exercise extreme Caution.
Driving in the rain with freezing temperatures is unavoidable in some Canadian cities. Temperatures in Canada fluctuate, resulting in a variety of road conditions. Where there is freezing rain, there are usually slippery roads and black ice.
Drivers should exercise extreme caution when driving in this type of bad weather because the chances of losing control of the vehicle are higher, and visibility is reduced.
If you must drive in the freezing rain:
- Allow for extra time because the commute will most likely take longer.
- Maintain a safe distance between other vehicles on the road and keep an eye out for snowplows and salt trucks.
- Road maintenance vehicles are always out salting or sanding the roads in freezing rain. Instead of driving alongside maintenance vehicles, try to keep a safe distance behind them.
- Avoid distracted driving and use caution when braking; freezing rain is more dangerous than it appears.
6. Driving in a snowstorm
You should try to avoid driving in a blizzard at all costs, but if you don’t have a choice and are caught in one, here are a few safety tips.
- Take note of the road surface.
Black ice is notorious for being nearly invisible, especially when driving at night in a blizzard. Fortunately, there are some techniques you can use to detect it.
Pavement that appears to be new asphalt or that appears dark and wet could be covered in black ice.
Black ice is common on bridges, shaded areas, and overpasses, and it is more likely to form following low temperatures and recent precipitation, so be extra cautious.
- Navigating Hills
Hills make it more difficult to maintain traction on snow. When driving down a hill, leave plenty of space in front of you (at least three car lengths) because you won’t be able to stop as quickly as you would in normal conditions.
Stopping or applying too much gas while driving uphill can cause you to lose traction completely. Start building momentum before the hill and let it carry you to the top. You can slow down once you reach the top of the hill.
- Please be patient.
The goal is for everyone to arrive safely at their destination, not quickly. Expect extremely poor visibility for all drivers out there.
Others will be driving slower than usual, which is fine. Maintain a safe distance between yourself and the vehicle in front of you at all times.
- Inform someone
It’s a good idea to notify someone at the destination of your expected arrival time. They can send help if you do not arrive.
- Avoid using cruise control.
If you’re driving in a blizzard, the roads are probably a mix of wet, snowy, and icy. Using cruise control in those conditions is risky.
It can cause your vehicle to accelerate unexpectedly, shortening your reaction time and reducing your control.
Canadian roads are safe to drive during winter if you adhere to the necessary steps to be taken when driving during winter.