Winter driving habits to keep you safe
Posted Dec 19th 2010 6:37PM
Winter's here again and that means it's time to adjust your driving habits for conditions typical of the season. Fortunately, most of the things you can do to cope with winter driving conditions are a matter of commonsense. Still, they bear repeating every year.
Jeff LeMoine, who's a PR Specialist for the South Central Ontario branch of the Canadian Automobile Association, offers these driving tips to help you safely get through the winter.
1. Plan your trip before you go
Whether you're driving across town or across the province, be aware of weather conditions and know how to get to your destination. Especially in bad weather, it makes sense to travel a route you're most familiar with. "You should make sure your route is clearly marked out because, if you're feeling pressured by the weather conditions, you don't want to be wondering if you're going in the right direction," says LeMoine.
2. Prepare your vehicle
Get your vehicle thoroughly checked and make sure it has four correctly installed winter tires. Winter tires can dramatically improve your car's handling and can decrease stopping distance by up to two car lengths. Always carry an emergency roadside kit with a fully-charged cell phone and extra warm clothing, including a toque or hat since 60% of body heat is lost through your head (see related articles in our Winter Features section for information about winter preparation).
3. Buckle up
Always wear your seat belt. You'll save yourself a costly fine if you do and it could save your life. If you travel with young children, it's equally important that they're strapped securely into their own seat. If you're uncertain whether your child's car seat has been properly installed, go to a public clinic offered by organizations such as St. John's Ambulance or your local police force. The (small) amount of time you spend at a clinic will give you peace of mind.
4. See and be seen
When the weather turns nasty, clear all snow off your car before you head out on the road. Once you're in motion, accumulated snow can make it harder for you to clearly see things around you and can also adversely affect other drivers. Similarly, check that your windshield wipers aren't stuck to your windshield since they can freeze in very cold temperatures. For added visibility, make sure your windshield washer fluid is always topped up and keep an extra container of washer fluid in your vehicle at all times.
5. Give yourself extra time
No matter what the season or road conditions, always leave sufficient time to get to your destination. "It seems like we never have enough time in our day-to-day lives to get to work, get home, pick up the kids, etc. Being prepared so that you have more time in your schedule is one of the key strategies of safe driving," says LeMoine.
That's also true if you're driving to see family members in other cities at Christmas time, for example. "Take frequent rest breaks," LeMoine advises. "Stop and get out of the car, have a coffee somewhere. You'll feel rejuvenated and more alert after just getting out from behind the wheel."
6. Be courteous
"Like the old adage," says LeMoine, "treat others as you would like to be treated." You should drive at a speed that's appropriate to conditions – in other words, slow down – to maintain control of your vehicle. Don't weave in and out of traffic. Be patient. And leave plenty of space between you and car ahead since winter roads can be slick.
7. Be aware
If you're not paying attention to your driving or other drivers and pedestrians, things can quickly get out of control on slippery, snow-covered roads. So it's crucial to be aware of your surroundings at all times. One way to increase that awareness (and save on fuel costs), LeMoine points out, is to try carpooling especially if you have a long commute. You have a second (or more) set of eyes in your vehicle to help keep you aware of road activity.
8. Stay calm when stuck
If you do get stuck in snow despite all your precautions, don't panic. If you need to keep the engine running to stay warm, be sure your vehicle's tailpipe is clear of any piled snow. A blocked tailpipe can force deadly carbon monoxide back into your car. For added protection, keep one window slightly open for fresh air. "We advise that people be aware of the situation there are in if stuck in their car and act according to the information they have and their surroundings"."
"These tips will help keep you and other drivers safe on winter roads," says LeMoine. "It's all about awareness and preparing yourself the best you can."