Winter weather driving tips | Car Tips

tips for winter weather driving



Winter weather driving tips


By Ian Law, Toronto Star


In our northern climate, winter is a unique season that presents motorists with unique challenges.


We have to prepare  our vehicles for this most demanding of driving seasons. But we have to prepare the driver as well.


Contrary to popular belief, the multitude of electronic safety features such as ABS brakes, stability control or even All Wheel Drive (AWD) found in modern vehicles are not the most important safety features. The No. 1 safety feature in any vehicle, by far, is the driver.


Unfortunately, training for winter driving is not part of our driver’s licence requirements. The vast majority of motorists have never had formal winter driving instruction.


Luckily there are a few specialized advanced driving schools that teach winter driving skills. Many of the skills — such as skid recognition and recovery — for safe driving do not come naturally; they must be learned and practised. Drivers can also learn to develop better vision and vehicle-control skills that will help with their winter driving safety and confidence.


Nevertheless, no matter how skilled you are, no trip is worth putting your life on the line for. When weather forecasts predict blowing snow, whiteout conditions, ice or deep snow, take that as a warning to not drive. Sometimes, deciding not to drive is the best decision a driver can make.


If you must drive in bad weather, here are some tips that can help you:


1) Stay up to date on weather forecasts. There are those who like the challenge of taking on the worst Mother Nature can throw at them, but smart drivers know when not to drive. It’s an excellent idea to know what type of road conditions you may encounter on your drive or whether you should cancel your trip altogether.


2) Slow down. Traction on winter roads is different than what you’ll experience in the other three seasons. Even dry roads offer up less grip in cold temperatures than in summer. Many times we are driving on roads that may look fine but in actual fact have a layer of dry salt or sand on them that reduces grip.


Ice will reduce your traction by about 90 per cent, leaving you with braking distances that can be 10 times longer than on dry roads. Just because you can drive fast doesn’t mean you should. Anyone can drive fast on winter roads; smart drivers know when not to.


3) Don’t let ‘safety features’ make you over-confident. Contrary to what many vehicle ads say, AWD technology is not a safety feature and you should not expect “more grip” from this technology. This is a performance feature that only allows you to accelerate better. It will not help you to steer or stop any better. It cannot give your tires more grip but it can mask how slippery the roads really are.


ABS (Anti-lock Brakes) will lengthen stopping distances on ice and snow compared to the same vehicle if it was not equipped with ABS. Be ready for this by giving yourself more following distance and by braking sooner.


4) Keep your vehicle clear of snow and ice. The Highway Traffic Act requires motorists and truckers to clean all the snow and ice off their vehicles before driving.


5) Wear the right clothing. What you wear while driving will have an impact on your driving ability. A heavy winter coat will bulk up your arms and have an effect on your steering inputs and may cause fatigue to set in. A sweater will free up your arm movements, be more comfortable and ensure the seat belt fits you properly. Leather gloves won’t slip on the steering wheel like cotton or wool mitts can.


It is a known fact that drivers have crashed their vehicles by stepping on the wrong pedal or both the gas and brake pedal at the same time. Driving in shoes rather than winter boots decreases the likelihood of you stepping on both the pedals at the same time.


Boots are bulkier than shoes and drivers have crashed because their winter boot got caught behind the brake pedal in an emergency braking event. A pair of shoes allows you the best feel of the pedals and you can tell exactly how much gas or brake you’re applying. Todays’ vehicles have excellent climate controls and heated seats and your vehicle will warm up in no time.


6) Understand how your vehicle’s climate controls work. This will help you keep windows clear of fog and frost. Air conditioners are an excellent dehumidifier and will help you keep your windows clear. Your passengers should knock any snow or slush off their boots upon entering your vehicle to minimize the amount of humidity in your vehicle.


7) Stay focused. Avoid allowing yourself to become distracted while driving. Distractions are a leading cause of crashes. Conversations, cell phones and especially texting are all distractions that can be deadly. Being totally aware of your driving situation can save your life.


Never allow yourself to get distracted so you can process vital driving information such as weather, road and traffic conditions.