As Canadians, we all tend to think that we have winter driving down. But just because you drive in icy and snowy conditions all the time, that doesn’t mean you can throw caution to the wind. In fact, overconfidence is one of the major causes of accidents in poor weather – many people either drive too fast or don’t give themselves enough time to stop, which leads to collisions or loss of control. So before heading out on the road this winter, take note of these precautions that will help keep you and your family safe.
Because winter driving conditions are so different from summer conditions, it’s almost as if you need a different vehicle when the weather dips below freezing. Of course, most of us drive the same vehicle year-round, so in order to prepare your vehicle, there are several changes you should make. The most important change is to switch to a good set of snow tires that bear the mountain and snowflake logo – these will give your vehicle the traction it needs to handle ice, snow, and cold pavement. It’s also a good idea to have your vehicle serviced and inspected before winter hits so you can make sure it’s winter ready.
The most important change is to switch to a good set of snow tires that bear the mountain snowflake logo.
It’s a good idea to keep a safety kit in your vehicle at all times, no matter the season or the weather conditions. During winter, this safety kit should include items like jumper cables, a spare tire, a flashlight, a small shovel, a safety blanket, and some extra food and water. If you’re ever stranded in a snowstorm, these items could really help you out – they could even save your life.
Following the posted speed limit can get you into trouble in winter; speed limits are designed to indicate the maximum legal speed under ideal conditions, so in winter conditions it’s often a good idea to drive below the speed limit. Keep in mind that as a motorist, your legal obligation is not to follow the speed limit, but to set your speed according to road conditions, and in bad weather, that speed is likely to be lower than the posted recommendation.
Safety authorities recommend leaving a distance of four seconds between you and the vehicle in front of you in poor driving conditions in order to give yourself enough stopping space. If you find that this distance is difficult to measure, you can also think about leaving three times as much space between you and the vehicle in front of you as you would in the summer.
When approaching corners, brake before you turn your wheels to avoid losing control.
Skids are one of the main causes of winter accidents, so learning to avoid them is crucial for winter safety. The most important skill to develop for avoiding skids is smooth and steady driving, as any abrupt movements your vehicle makes will increase the likelihood of a skid. When approaching corners, brake before you turn your wheels to avoid losing control. Avoiding ice will also help you avoid skids; when roads are wet, ice can often form in the tire tracks left by previous vehicles, so it’s better to drive outside of the tracks for maximum traction.
Of course, even the best drivers can experience skids sometimes. That’s why it’s important to know how to handle skids when they happen. If you feel your vehicle starting to skid, take your foot off of the brake or accelerator and steer smoothly in the direction you want to go. Once the vehicle starts to regain traction, apply the brake slowly and smoothly, without pumping or slamming on the brakes.
Shifting your mindset will also help you become a better winter driver. By leaving more time than usual to get to your destination, planning routes ahead of time to avoid bad roads or poor conditions, and being prepared to delay or cancel trips in especially bad weather, you’ll be less rushed on the road and more aware of your surroundings, which will make you a safer and more relaxed driver overall. For current road conditions in Alberta, you can always dial 5-1-1 or check 511.alberta.ca.
If you want to make sure your vehicle is ready for winter driving conditions, check out EconoLube’s full range of seasonal car care services. We’ll make sure your car has everything it needs to keep you and your family safe and warm throughout the winter. For more information, visit our services page or give us a call at 780-962-1593.