Safe Winter Driving – The Ultimate Guide

As we get ready to embark on a long, cold winter, Canadians must get used to not only driving in darker conditions, but also driving in slush, ice, and snow. This blog will dive into not only how to drive safer in these conditions, but also what belongings you should always have on hand in the car in the winter months.

Driving At Night Can Be Dangerous

In the winter, we lose daylight hours as we approach December 21st, the shortest day of the year. Therefore, more of our life outside of the home is spent in darkness, forcing us to commute through less optimal driving conditions.

Therefore, it’s very important that you get familiar with your headlight settings, so you can quickly adjust from no headlights to headlights, to high beams and back.

High beams allow your range of vision to expand from approximately 45 metres ahead to 90 metres ahead. This is great when you’re driving on dark, unlit roads, however, this brighter light can cause temporary blindness to those passing you, and so you must pay attention and shut them off accordingly.

Don’t forget, it is legally required that your headlights are turned on 30 minutes before sunset and remain on until 30 minutes after sunrise. Additionally, your headlights should always be on in any weather that may obstruct vision, such as rain, fog, and snow.

Most cars now feature anti-glare functions on their rear-view mirrors, helping the driver combat glare from headlights behind you. Some cars even have mirrors that adjust automatically when the headlights are switched on. It’s important to get familiar with these features in your car, so you can adjust all the settings to work best at nighttime, ensuring you can always see clearly.

Reduce Your Speed In Bad Weather Or Low Visibility

At night, you can only see as far ahead as your headlights shine, meaning your vision is compromised beyond a certain distance. If you are speeding or driving faster than you can see, you may not be able to brake fast enough should oncoming threats appear. It’s always a good rule of thumb to keep at least one car distance between you and the car in front of you. The faster you are traveling; the more distance should be between you and the car in front.

During any inclement weather, such as fog, rain, or snow, it is even more important to slow down and proceed with caution. During the months of November, December, and January, insurance claims spike. In this weather, it is advised that you keep three car lengths of space between you and the driver in front of you.

Once the weather dips below freezing, “black ice” can catch you off guard and cause skidding and collisions. Black ice is most common in temperatures between 4°C and -4°C and is most often found on overpasses and bridges. Drive slow and avoid sudden braking or turning on these stretches.

Above freezing, you have the threat of hydroplaning to watch out for in heavy rains. It is caused by the mixing of dirt, oils, and rain after rainfall. The build-up causes cars to lose their traction, causing tires to make a spinning, skidding, or sliding motion. Drivers with heavily worn tires are at the highest risk of experiencing hydroplaning, sometimes even after a light rainfall, so extra care is required.

Driving during or after heaving rainfalls, snowstorms, or freezing temperatures requires extra caution so please slow down and leave extra space between cars.

Cold Weather Affects Tire Pressure

In colder weather, tires contract and expand often, causing tire pressure to drop faster than normal. In both the fall and winter months, it’s very important to regularly check your tire pressure. For every 10-degree drop in temperature, you can expect a 1 PSI (pounds per square inch) decrease in tire pressure.

A Clean Windshield Is A Clear Windshield

Driving at night or during sunset means driving through bright car and city lights. Any dirt, grime, or liquid that has accumulated on your car windshield seriously impacts your vision and can make even a short drive much more dangerous.

Take a minute or two before every trip to make sure your windshield is cleaned off and your windshield wipers can move freely and are in good condition. Always make sure your windshield wiper fluid is topped up. It is always a good idea to always keep an extra container of windshield wiper fluid in your car, so you can easily top up when needed.

Windshield wipers frequently need replacing after the winter, as snow, slush and ice can degrade them. If they aren’t working as well as they used to, it’s time to replace them.

Safe Winter Driving Is Prepared Winter Driving

As stated above, freezing temperatures, inclement weather, and snow and slush can make for more dangerous drives. That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep an emergency car kit stocked and ready should you end up in a collision or stranded on the side of the road.

Some things that should always be in your car during winter include:

  • Sleeping bags or blankets
  • First-aid supplies such as bandages, hand sanitizer, antiseptic wound cleaner, gloves, oral rehydration salts or drinks, scissors, and tweezers.
  • A shovel
  • Tire chains
  • Winter gloves
  • A spare tire
  • Wheel wrench and jack
  • Windshield scraper
  • Sand or kitty litter (for situations where you need emergency traction, or your tires are stuck)
  • Jump start battery packs
  • Flares and matches
  • Flashlight

Additionally, it’s important that you are prepared should you have to wait inside or outside of your car for long periods of time without heat. Many people skip proper winter attire when driving, as their car provides heat. However, you should always take these items with you in the car, so you can grab them in an emergency.

This includes a warm winter jacket, proper winter boots, a hat, and gloves. It is much better to have these items on hand and not need them than to need them and not have them.

It’s also always a good idea to bring some non-perishable snacks that you can store in your purse or glove compartment. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but a granola bar and water can go a long way to help long waiting times when you’re hungry.

Don’t forget about a phone charger! It’s never a good idea to leave home with a low phone battery, but if you have a charger in your car, you can easily plug in and charge as you drive, helping to ensure a full battery should you need it.

Make Sure Your Car Is Winter Ready!

On top of the above tips, the first defense in proper winter car safety is making sure your car has been winterized. Book a trip to the mechanic to check that your brakes are working properly, all your fluids are topped up and to get winter tires put on your car. Also ensure that your mechanic performs a full vehicle check-up, including tire pressure.

We also recommend always keeping your gas tank above half full. The last thing you want is to run out of gas on a nasty winter’s night.

If You’ve Been In A Winter Car Accident, De Rose Is Here To Help

If you or a loved one is struggling with the aftermath of an auto collision, contact De Rose Lawyers to schedule a consultation with a member of our experienced personal injury team. Our experienced team fights for the compensation and care you deserve.