Winter Driving Safety - Tips to Keep You on the Road
Yesterday I watched as the first flakes of snow descended on the Lower Mainland. This morning I opened the blinds to a pristine winter wonderland.
I can already hear the squeals of delight from the neighbourhood children, and the groans of despair from their parents as they scrape the snow and ice from their car windshields! Everywhere around the Lower Mainland you can hear the unmistakable sound of metal crumpling as unprepared drivers wreak havoc on the highways and intersections of our streets.
Every winter, hundreds of unprepared or unskilled drivers across the country, take theirs and others lives in their hands when they get behind the wheel.
The video below shows drivers practicing their lessons
Quite a few winter fender-benders can be avoided with driver training for winter weather conditions. There are a number of winter driving schools across the country (and in the States) that teach defensive driving - a must, if you want to stay safe on winter roads.
For the more advanced drivers there are advanced driving schools, and for those people who prefer to use their computer to learn, there is even an online driving school! Although I'm not sure I would want to learn driving skills behind the wheel of my computer...
Check your area for a local driving school - I was surprised how many were available for the Vancouver and outlying districts. I think more Vancouver drivers should take courses on winter driving, and I'm sure a lot of other drivers would agree with me.
Trust me, as soon as the first snowflakes hit the road, too many lower mainland drivers freeze up. Whether it is a case of too much information, or not enough, the fender-benders that ensue keep the local body shops hopping.
Tips to keep you on the road
- Check your wiper blades to make sure they work properly. Winter blades or snow blades effective alternative to conventional ones.
- Make sure to top up your anti-freeze - if you are unsure what to use, check with your mechanic
- Make sure your tires are properly inflated - over or under inflation will cause improper road surface grip
- Use a proper set of snow tires. They have a softer grip as opposed to all season tires, making them the better choice for cold, winter conditions.
- Keep your gas tank half-full to full. This adds weight and helps reduce moisture problems with your fuel system.
- Keep the snow and ice on the outside of the vehicle. Too much build up of snow on your boots can cause the windows to fog up as it melts.
- Clean the ice and snow off all the windows of the vehicle, including the rear view mirrors, headlights and brake lights. You need the best visibility you can get in winter conditions.
- Always wear your seat belts!
- Adjust your headrests - yes you heard me correctly! Rear-end collisions are common in winter driving conditions and a properly adjusted headrest can prevent or diminish neck injuries.
- Turn the radio down - I understand it can provide helpful information about traffic and accidents, but it can be a distraction when driving in bad conditions.
- Don't, I repeat - Don't use your cell phone. Even if you have a blue-tooth or hands-free, you need to concentrate on the road when driving in icy conditions, not on a telephone conversation.
- Carry some emergency equipment in your car in case you get stuck. A simple blanket and food bars, something for the kids (if you have any) can go a long way to making you comfortable while waiting for assistance.
- Don't make any long distance drives at night if at all possible. Visibility is better during the day, and if you become stranded you are more likely to quicker assistance than you would at night.
- Drive for the conditions! Reduce your speed for better handling and quicker response time. Speed limit signs show maximum speed for ideal conditions only! You can still get a speeding ticket for driving the posted speed in poor conditions!
- Think! Be aware of other drivers. One second can make the difference between an accident and a safe journey. If someone is too close behind you, slow down and let them go around you - don't be forced to speed up.
- Don't brake on a corner (unless forced to.) Use your brakes before entering the corner, and don't accelerate until you are out of the corner. Intersections can get very icy, so try and stay out of the middle of the road (where everyone else has traveled.) Usually, there is better traction along the edges, but you still need to be alert.
- Maintain a comfortable (not hot) driving temperature - keep your window cracked to allow a constant flow of cool air. This will help keep you alert and the windows from fogging up.
- Drive with your lights on when visibility is less than ideal. When driving at night, use your low beam if it is foggy or snowing to reduce glare and eye fatigue.
- Apply a smooth, even pressure for braking. If you have ABS (Allows you to Brake and Steer) you can use firm pressure in an emergency. Never count on technology to replace good judgment!
- Keep both hands on the wheel! Use a shuffle technique to turn instead of hand over hand.
- If you are driving up a steep hill, gain momentum before starting the climb. Allow the car to slow as you climb, keeping a consistent pressure on the gas pedal. Avoid trying to speed up while climbing as this can cause the car's wheels to spin out. It is better to make it to the top at a slower speed than to be stuck half way up!
- If you become stuck or stranded, only run the engine briefly - not continuously - to maintain heat inside the car. Make sure the tail pipe is clear of snow or debris to avoid carbon monoxide build up.
Items to keep in your car
This is a list of items you should carry in your vehicle. These could mean the difference between life and death in an emergency situation.
- candle with matches/lighter,
- snacks, water/juice,
- cell phone/hand radio,
- jumper cables,
- small shovel,
- kitty litter (for traction)
- window scraper,
- a tow rope.
Many drivers are simply not equipped for driving in hazardous conditions. You should carry an emergency kit at all times - it never hurts to be prepared.