As Canadians, we like to think that we have winter driving mastered. But one look at the accident statistics after a fresh snowfall tells us otherwise. Even for those of us who have attended (or even operate) a driving school, Calgary roads can be treacherous after a fresh snowfall.
With this in mind, we at Derek Brown’s Academy of Driving thought it might be a good idea to write a blog post about driving safely in the winter.
What follows are 6 critical winter driving tips for driving more safely on winter roads.
- Slow. Down.
While this may seem obvious, many drivers feel that if they have winter tires and all-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive then they don’t have to observe the speed limits… But this is absolutely not the case.
If anything, having your vehicle properly prepared for winter driving makes you even more responsible for driving safely. You are more able to move and stop suddenly than drivers who don’t have these things, and your actions on the road (as with almost anywhere else) have a direct impact on those around you. If you drive like a yahoo because you’ve got good tires and 4×4 capabilities, then those who don’t have those abilities will probably end up colliding with you.
In other words, just because you can stop & turn on an icy dime doesn’t mean the guy behind/beside you can too.
- Don’t use cruise control.
This actually applies to icy cold winter roads and slick wet summer roads.
As you probably know, cruise control keeps a vehicle going at a constant speed. While this may be great during long road trips, it’s truly horrifying if you’re spinning out of control on a slippery highway road.
But doesn’t it disengage when I hit my brakes?
Ideally, yes. But depending on the road conditions and vehicle you’re driving, the moment you hit your brakes might be the moment where things take a wrong turn.
When driving on slick roads, sometimes the only thing that keeps your car going straight is sheer momentum, not its tires on the road. The moment that momentum is interrupted is when your car starts spinning. Be aware of your car’s traction by regularly monitoring its response to gentle deceleration, which you can only do you’re not using cruise control.
- Carry an emergency road kit.
Again, this may be stating the obvious. Yet it amazes us how many drivers do not have a simple emergency kit – either store bought or homemade – in their vehicles.
Your kit doesn’t need to be anything fancy, but should include:
A candle, matches, deep canister (like an empty coffee can) to hold the candle, energy bars, a blanket, water, 1st aid supplies, a flashlight, a snow shovel and brush, jumper cables
- Use good snow tires.
When it comes to snow tires, not all are created equal. Look for tires that have the “alpine” symbol on them. This symbol looks like a three-peaked mountain with a snowflake in it. This symbol means the tire has been specifically designed for use in snowy conditions and uses a rubber that remains soft and sticky in cold and on ice.
- Be aware of road and weather conditions.
Also trust your gut – if you get the feeling that conditions might not be the best then be prepared by planning an alternate route or, if you can, just not going until conditions improve.
- Take a brush up winter driving course from our driving school (Calgary) and learn winter driving skills from an experienced instructor. You’ll be able to handle slippery roads like a pro.
Using all 6 of these tips will absolutely help you to be a safer winter weather driver, but stay tuned for part 2 of this post with another 5 tips on how to make your winter wonderland driving experiences as safe as possible.