Driving Tips for Winter in Canada

February 25, 2019

If your vehicle isn’t prepared for winter driving in Canada, it’s not too late to ensure your safety behind the wheel is protected at all costs. As winter weather is different in each Canadian city, we’ve developed a list of tips that could help you stay out of danger in all sorts of Canada’s winter climates.

Winter driving in Canada is far from over, so we wanted to give you some winter driving tips to help get you through without any accidents. Although each province has it’s own set of winter driving conditions, being behind the wheel during the wintertime is incomparably different than driving in the fall, spring and summer. Aside from the fact that it’s mid-February, some Canadian provinces are just starting to see Canada’s harsh winter arrive. Cities like Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto are experiencing extremely cold weather conditions, and this most definitely affects the roads and driving circumstances.

Driving in Winter Conditions in Canada

Tips for driving in snow and ice

If you live in an area of Canada where snow and freezing weather play a major role during the winter, you’re probably no stranger to dealing with icy road conditions. When it comes to driving on ice, there are a couple of things to remember.

First, keep it slow.

Never slam on the brakes when it's icy. If you need to stop quickly, then pumping the brakes will help you stop faster without sliding. If your car has a modern braking system, you may have felt or heard its Cadence or Stutter braking system, which help you stop in slippery conditions by rapidly pumping the brakes for you.

If your car is standard, you can also downshift, using the gears to slow your car down instead of the brakes. This comes in handy especially as you make your way down a hill.

While operating a vehicle on ice covered roads, never brake hard or accelerate and while turning a corner. If you start sliding as you are braking into a corner, ease off the brakes and point your tires in the direction that you want to go.

It’s common to panic and get confused about what you need to do to regain full control of your car if you’re sliding. But, instead of accelerating or turning quickly, let the traction on your tires’ steer the vehicle. Once you’re off an icy patch, it’s okay to accelerate again. However, if you’re on a backroad or a block that hasn’t been deiced, remember that there’s always a potential to skid, so stay off hard braking and keep your steering wheel as straight as possible.

If your back wheels are turning due to ice, make sure to turn into the slide with your steering wheel – this will ensure the entire car is being straightened out and it will alleviate the skid and put you back on track to complete control your vehicle.

Driving in a Snowstorm

When there’s a snowstorm outside, it’s best to avoid the roads at all costs. However, if you live in a province where winter primarily consists of snowstorms, staying completely off the roads isn’t realistic. If you’re planning a drive and it’s windy, snowing and freezing cold, make sure that your car is cleared off to ensure the visibility of the roads from the driver's seat is clear. Use a snow brush on the exterior of each window, the hood of your car, and your taillights and headlights. Chances are snow will settle on the roof of your vehicle. Failing to clear the roof of snow may result in it falling onto your windshield when you decelerate. When you clear the car off, start your car for a couple minutes before you start to drive to heat up the engine. As well, freezing weather conditions can result in ice build-up on your vehicle’s surface. De-ice spray is a great way to speed up the thawing of ice on your windows if it’s difficult to scrape off. And, when you park your vehicle, lift your wipers up to ensure they don’t freeze to your windshield.

READ MORE: 5 Ways To Prepare Your Car For The Winter

A big hazard when driving in a snowstorm is other drivers who are either inexperienced on snowy roads or don’t have the appropriate tires installed. Distance between vehicles is key when driving in a snowstorm as you need a reasonable amount of space in order to safely come to a stop. You can easily lose traction if you slam on the brakes, so keep your speed down and if people choose to tailgate or drive faster, let them pass you.

Driving in Freezing Rain

In some Canadian provinces, driving in the rain with freezing temperatures is inevitable. This winter, Canada has seen fluctuating temperatures which has resulted in all types of road conditions developing. More often than not, where there is freezing rain there is ice and fog. It’s important for drivers to use extreme caution when driving in an ice storm as the chances of losing control of the vehicle are greater, and it can be more difficult to see. If you plan to drive in freezing rain, give yourself plenty of time, as the commute will most likely take longer. While on the road, keep your space between other vehicles and watch out for snowplows and salt trucks. In freezing rain, road maintenance vehicles are always out salting or sanding the roads. Try to drive behind maintenance vehicles as opposed to beside them. As well, keep it easy on the brakes and avoid engaging in distracted driving – freezing rain might not look as bad as it truly can be.

Cold Weather Driving Tips

Below is a list of tips to help you stay safe on the road this winter:

1. Stay on Main Roads

During a snow or ice storm, it’s likely that your town or city will have snowplows and salt trucks maintaining bigger roads first before back roads and side streets. If you’re planning to drive in winter conditions, stay on the main roads to avoid un-plowed and un-salted road conditions. This will minimize your chances of getting in a vehicle-related accident due to poor road maintenance.

2. See and Be Seen

One of the best ways to avoid an accident is to ensure you’re seen on the road by all motorists. As well, ensuring other drivers and pedestrians see you is key. Make sure your headlights are cleared of snow, avoid distracted driving at all costs, and maintain your distance between other vehicles. It can be difficult to see other vehicles in your blind spot, especially during a snowstorm. Keep it slow and keep your eyes peeled for all types of movement on the road.

3. Avoid Driving in Bad Winter Conditions

If the weather is absolutely terrible outside, there’s a good chance road conditions will be just as bad. Avoid getting behind the wheel altogether if you’re questioning whether you should drive or not. The best practice is to wait a couple hours until a snowstorm has calmed, or until you’re sure that road maintenance has hit the streets.

Safe winter driving everybody!

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