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Be Safe - Winter Driving Safety

Updated on July 10, 2015
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Break out the snow tires Fred...

I just looked outside my living room window and saw the very first flakes of snow trying valiantly to win out over the rain.

It's a cold, blustery day here in the Lower Mainland, and the smart folks are already preparing for the inevitable, first snow fall that cripples the Greater Vancouver area every year.

Why is that you ask? The answer is very simple - all season tires. For some reason, I don't know what it is, but three quarters of the population in and around Vancouver, believe that all season tires will suffice when it comes to winter driving. After all...the snow never stays, so why spend all that money on snow tires, chains and winter driving school?

You would think more drivers would be conscious of the fact that west coast winter conditions can be hazardous.This is not to say that winter driving in the rest of Canada is a cake-walk. What I am saying is that most people who live in Alberta and the eastern provinces know that driving in the snow is hazardous.

However, the West Coast has something that the rest of the country doesn't...black ice. Black ice got its name from the fact that you can't see it on the road. There is no grey or frosty look to it, there is just a black stretch of highway that could be wet pavement or ice. The only way to tell which is which, is to walk or drive over it. Not a pleasant prospect when you're sporting all season tires!

Icy conditions in Portland

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Snow tires

As I watch the little white flakes cascading towards the ground I am consumed with the prospect of rushing to the nearest Canadian Tire location to pick up a new set of winter tires! Because I drive a lot in my work, I can't be caught on slick roads with the tires I have now. Fortunately, I have a front wheel drive vehicle, but that isn't enough to save my ass when the roads get icy.

There are a lot of different types of snow tires for sale on the market. There are Bridgestone snow tires, Goodyear snow tires, car snow tires, truck snow tires...well, you get the picture. With all the different makes and models, it can be tough to figure out exactly which one to buy.

Some of us are even looking for cheap snow tires! (That would be me...) However, I don't think there are many of those puppies left! I called up my favorite place to get tires, and asked if they had any cheap snow tires, and was told, "No, sorry, out of stock!" So I guess it's off to Canadian Tire for me...

Be prepared

Surprisingly, winter weather can catch drivers off guard. Even though everyone knows winter is coming, it's amazing how unprepared we, as drivers, are. I know that a set of tires is not an inexpensive purchase, but it can quite possibly save your life, not to mention someone else's as well as thousands of dollars in car repairs, should you happen to wrap your car around a pole!

For those new drivers on the road, the ones who have never driven on snow or ice, it would be a very good idea to take a winter driving course, or attend a winter driving school. I was fortunate to learn how to drive in the snow when I was first behind the wheel, and I will never forget those lessons.

Some Provinces (and I think some States) have passed a law stating that drivers must use winter tires. There are some laws that state if a driver is involved in an accident and is found to be driving without winter tires, he is deemed to be at fault. Not good for an insurance claim!

It is a good idea to carry chains if you are doing any long distance driving. Always pack an extra blanket and food bars just in case you get stuck, and make sure to check the weather and travel conditions before starting out. Most major highways and freeways have websites that give you the latest travel conditions so you know if the roads are safe.

Most of our mountain highways have signs declaring "the use of chains beyond this point is mandatory", however, you will still get the person who thinks they can make the grade without them.

Here is a tip that a lot of people are unaware of. Keep your gas tank full when winter driving. The added weight helps keep the vehicle more stable, and for people who drive pickup trucks, make sure you put some extra weight in the back to avoid slipping and sliding around corners.

Experience...

Nothing takes the place of experience and common sense. If you don't have experience driving in winter conditions, then you need to be careful and apply common sense. Simple things like, don't tailgate, don't speed, and don't slam on the brakes come to mind.

When driving in adverse conditions, you need to adjust your speed accordingly. Even with good winter tires, it takes longer to stop than normal. The same goes for tailgating. You need to leave more room than normal (something that rarely happens in the Lower Mainland...) otherwise you run the risk of smacking into the rear end of the car in front of you, or skidding into the ditch to avoid a collision when you hit the brakes - either scenario is possible when you don't apply common sense.

So this winter, get some winter tires and some common sense - it could save you thousands of dollars...and your life.

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    • Enelle Lamb profile imageAUTHOR

      Enelle Lamb 

      7 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      Whereas we miss out on the snow, get the freezing rain and ice...hmmmm...wonder if we should relocate somewhere closer to the middle...LOL

      I hear you about the cheaper tires though ;)

    • profile image

      TowingGirl 

      7 years ago

      Black ice! I can't stand it. I originally come from England and that was the worst! I'm currently living in Halifax, Nova Scotia though. Despite the snow and freezing rain we miss out on the black ice thankfully.

      I like this post! It's so true... I definitely looked for the cheaper snow tires!

    • Enelle Lamb profile imageAUTHOR

      Enelle Lamb 

      7 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      Thanks CennyWenny - You are so right! If you live in an area that has the snow, studded tires are the best! Down here on the lower Mainland, we rarely get that much snow, so those kind of tires would just chew up our already chewed up roads LOL

    • CennyWenny profile image

      CennyWenny 

      7 years ago from Washington

      Great Hub Enelle! I live in the Eastern part of Washington state at a high elevation and we have snow from November through March or April. I've lived up here for three years now and this is the first winter I've felt comfortable driving, and I have a AWD car. I think studded tires, which I have this year, REALLY help. That and keeping a reasonable speed and being smart about how you use your brakes. That's where I see most people get into trouble because I drive up and down and 8 mile canyon everyday to and from work.

    • Enelle Lamb profile imageAUTHOR

      Enelle Lamb 

      7 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      CollisionBlast 4 hours ago

      This was a useful post. I appreciate you taking the time to share your knowledge with us.

      Thanks CollisionBlast, please next time ask before leaving a link :) thanks, Enelle

    • Enelle Lamb profile imageAUTHOR

      Enelle Lamb 

      7 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      Most welcome Rhonda, sure hope it helped! Thanks for commenting :D

    • Rhonda Waits profile image

      Rhonda Musch 

      7 years ago from The Emerald Coast

      We travel to Ohio to visit family every year. We live in Florida. It never snows here. Winter driving safety would have been what the Dr. ordered. Thanks for your hub.

    • Enelle Lamb profile imageAUTHOR

      Enelle Lamb 

      7 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      Hi Cars Ireland - I like that idea...snow socks...wonder if they come in my size?

    • profile image

      Cars Ireland 

      7 years ago

      thanks for info really useful, came across a story on snow socks for tyres your readers may find useful

      http://www.beepbeep.ie/news/?story=185

    • Enelle Lamb profile imageAUTHOR

      Enelle Lamb 

      7 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      tcfsu - glad it was helpful :) thanks for commenting

      stephhicks68 - black ice can be quite the ride! It's scared me a few times!

      billrobinson - after standing in the middle of the road for 10 hours a day, I couldn't agree more!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 

      7 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      I live on the West Coast of the U.S. and know exactly what you mean about the black ice! Too many drivers don't adjust speed for conditions and then they don't know what to do when their car spins or slides. That's how accidents happen! Saw a car just like the one in your first photo earlier this week....

    • tcfsu profile image

      tcfsu 

      7 years ago from Tallahassee, Florida

      Very helpful information, thank you.

    • Enelle Lamb profile imageAUTHOR

      Enelle Lamb 

      7 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      Wow screation - thanks for the info! I would love to believe the automobile experts, but my instincts side with the physicists...kinda like the gravity thing...and planes...LOL

    • screation profile image

      screation 

      7 years ago

      Gradual Braking, ABS or no ABS

      Most modern cars are equipped with an anti-lock braking system, which prevents cars from skidding after the brake pedal is stepped on too hard, too fast. The idea behind this device is that tires provide both traction and control only when they are spinning, so that an abrupt halt can send the car to unpredictable directions. When you need to halt while driving over snow or other slippery surfaces, step on the brakes gradually. Our instincts often tell us that a sudden stop can be achieved only through rapid braking. However, physicists and automobiles experts vehemently disagree.

    • Enelle Lamb profile imageAUTHOR

      Enelle Lamb 

      7 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      Thanks dobster1 - somehow I don't think winter tires would have made much difference either! I don't know if the people in the video were only using all season, but they had no traction at all!

    • dobster1 profile image

      dobster1 

      7 years ago

      I have seen a similar video in Germany with a sliding bus. It was scary!

      In terms of tires, it may come as surprise to some but in Europe they do not offer all-season tires or at least stores don't carry them. For some parts of southern Europe this is a big scam since they get snow there twice a year and common sense dictates not to drive in such conditions. All-season tires are just fine for southern US states. Anyone living up north should have winter tires.

      I am not sure even winter tires would have helped in that video...

    • Enelle Lamb profile imageAUTHOR

      Enelle Lamb 

      7 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      I watched that one a few times myself! Never saw anything like it!

    • abidan profile image

      abidan 

      7 years ago

      Icy conditions in Portland

      crazy vid

      neva seen such a vid before

      i like

    • Enelle Lamb profile imageAUTHOR

      Enelle Lamb 

      7 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      Hi Pat - I envy you LOL! It's a tad chilly up here about now! Thanks for reading and commenting :D

      MoneyCreator24 - How right you are! It should be interesting watching the winter drivers this year - I'm sure half of them are totally unprepared!

    • MoneyCreator24 profile image

      MoneyCreator24 

      7 years ago

      Yes, it´s always about preparation.

    • profile image

      Pat 

      7 years ago

      Great reminder this winder season. I had one too many close calls so I headed out to the desert in California. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has to drive through that mess.

    • Enelle Lamb profile imageAUTHOR

      Enelle Lamb 

      7 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      Most welcome Patty :) - I remember using studded tires (years ago, before I learned to drive LOL) but few areas allow them now. Chains are the best we can do!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 

      7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Winter driving school sounds like a fine idea. We could use it here. We have two or three weeks of deeper snow, ice, and drifting, with lots of sccidents.

      We used to be able to use studded tires, but since the snowfall has decreased significantly in the last 40 years, we are no longer able to legally have them. A few people still use chains.

      Thanks for the good read.

    • Enelle Lamb profile imageAUTHOR

      Enelle Lamb 

      7 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      Well we have only seen the tip of the iceberg so far!! Presently it is raining again, so drivers have almost forgotten about the snow - but it will surface again before winter is over ;)

    • profile image

      chspublish 

      7 years ago

      Thanks Enelle. Good advice and clear ideas. Interested to know, in some ways that other countries can be unprepared for safe driving in snow and ice conditions such as we are usually here in Ireland.

      At the moment, driving cinditions are bad here with snow flurries and freezing conditions and few drivers with proper tires or special coverings for tires to counteract dangerous sliding. Thanks again.

    • Enelle Lamb profile imageAUTHOR

      Enelle Lamb 

      7 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      Thanks RedElf - I was thinking of doing a winter driving training hub...I know a lot of drivers out here could use it! LOL

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 

      7 years ago from Canada

      How's about some driving training? People here seem to forget winter comes every year - of course more of us have snow tires. :D Thanks for another great hub, Enelle. Love the Rick Mercer clips, too.

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