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9 Essential Winter Driving Tips For BC Car Owners

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

As the weather turns colder, and the roads get frosty, it’s time to take extra precautions while driving. Winter driving is something that we can’t avoid, but there are ways to make it safer.

Whether you’re a seasoned driver, or recently licensed the unpredictable bad weather yields unsafe road conditions. Cold weather conditions account for 12 percent of traffic accidents and fatalities in Canada. Snow and ice paired with the cold weather lead to pockets of black ice and slippery roads that are difficult and potentially dangerous to drive on.

The bad weather is the perfect time to brush up on your safe driving habits. Stay safe on snow-covered roads this holiday season with these 9 helpful winter driving tips.

Red Car in Snowy Weather - Vancouver - BC Driving Tips

1. Slow Down

The most important safe driving tip to practice is to drive slowly. Winter weather means low visibility and icy roads. It can be dangerous to break suddenly in these conditions, always leave extra space between yourself and other vehicles on the road.

Remember: speed limits are for ideal driving conditions. Driving at a reduced speed is the best way to avoid accidents, and get to your destination safely during the winter months. Driving slow on slippery roads will help to reduce skidding.

2. Get Winter Tires

Winter tires are specially designed for weather conditions like ice, snow, slush, and ice. They are made to perform in low temperatures.

Winter tires are designed to stay flexible in cooler conditions, helping them maintain better grip. They are made with tread patterns specially formulated to push water and snow to the sides for better traction.

Four-wheel drive is not a substitute for winter tires and is sure to replace all four. In some provinces, it’s the law. Look for tires with the alpine logo to ensure they meet Canadian snow traction performance requirements.

3. Top-up Your Winter Windshield Fluid

During the chilly winter months, replace your regular windshield fluid with a winter windshield fluid. Regular fluids may freeze in the tank or even worse - on your windshield!

Winter washer fluids have higher concentrations of alcohol, which gives them a lower freezing point. Some winter windshield fluids even have de-icing properties.

Fog and freezing rain already cause poor visibility, so be sure to treat your vehicle to a high-quality winter fluid and windshield wipers to help improve windshield clarity. Just don’t forget your snow brush!

Pair your deicing fluid, with a ceramic coated windshield for optimal visibility. Coated windows help to repel water from condensation and freezing rain. They also provide a layer of scratch resistance and protection from the minor abrasions caused by the salt and sand mixed into the slush on the roads.

4. Gas up

Always keep your gas tank at least half full during the winter. The empty space in the fuel tank is susceptible to condensation during the cooler months. If the condensation mixes with your gasoline, over time it can lead to gas tank and engine corrosion.

Having a full tank of fuel is especially important during the winter months, as fuel will keep your car warm, should you become stranded by the unpredictable weather, or stuck in a traffic jam.

5. Pack an Emergency Kit

Winter conditions can make driving difficult and dangerous, be sure to dress warmly and check the weather before you head out. Always leave an emergency kit in your car, in case you get stranded in the snow. Your emergency kit should include:

  • Non-perishable food, such as granola or energy bars

  • Water in plastic bottles, to be replaced every 6 months

  • Blankets and extra clothing for warmth

  • First aid kit and flashlight

  • Shovel, scraper, and snowbrush

  • Candle and a deep, empty can

  • Whistle, roadmaps, and a copy of your emergency plan

  • Sand, salt, or cat litter for tire traction

  • Antifreeze and windshield washer fluid

  • Tow rope, jumper cables, and a fire extinguisher.

  • Warning light or road flares

6. Check Your Brakes

Before the start of the snowy season, be sure to have your brakes checked. Turning and stopping in cold weather can be dangerous, so make sure your brakes are in tip-top shape. It’s easy to lose control of your vehicle on icy, and slippery surfaces.

Road salt is imminent to safe winter driving, but it is also extremely corrosive and can cause extensive vehicle and brake damage over time. In order to prevent this from happening, be sure to get your car detailed and cleaned on a regular basis.

7. Stay Alert

Winter Driving - Snowy Scene - Vancouver Tips

Always stay alert and avoid driving while fatigued or distracted, especially during the winter. Black ice can disguise itself as new asphalt so be sure to pay attention to the road at all times. Never use cruise control, you should be in full control at all times. It takes longer to reach a full stop on icy roads, so be sure to stay alert and give yourself ample space and time to stop safely. Stopping distance on an icy road is double that of stopping on a dry one.

8. Remain Calm

Above all, remember to remain calm while driving. Winter weather can be intimidating and anxiety-inducing to drive in, but try to remain calm and collected at all times. Plan ahead and check weather reports, before you head out.

In the event your car does start to skid on an icy road, do not panic. Always brake in a straight line for better wheel traction to prevent skidding. If you aren’t confident about driving, always stick to the right-hand lane.

Remember: slow and steady wins the race!

9. Plan Ahead

Always plan ahead and check the weather. When possible avoid driving in unsafe conditions such as blizzards, or freezing rain. Give yourself plenty of extra time, so that you can drive slowly and safely to your destination.

Winter driving is inescapable but can be safer if you take the necessary precautions. Always stay alert, plan ahead accordingly, and wear your seatbelt!

Winter driving - Staying Alert on Road - Vancouver

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