Tips For Safe Driving In Winter

You can drive safer! Here are some general tips for safe driving in Ontario winter weather. Watch for ice! Shaded areas, bridges and overpasses tend to freeze first and stay frozen long after the sun starts to shine. If you see or detect a thin layer of shiny “black ice”, as its often referred to, ahead then carefully slow down and drive smoothly and steadily trying not to brake suddenly. Hard packed snow can often be as slippery as ice. In such conditions, slow down and avoid sudden stops, braking or acceleration which might cause a skid.

When hit by  blowing snow or whiteout conditions, slow down and make sure there lots of space or distance between you and the vehicle in front. It often makes sense to get off the road totally and enjoy a cup of coffee or drink and wait awhile to hit the road. This allows the emergency vehicles to properly plow the road, sand or salt it, or perhaps to let the wind reduce down to safer driving conditions. This is obviously the most safe position but, unfortunately not usually the most thought of. But if you must travel on always use low beam headlights when snow is failing, as it is believed that high beams reflect back off the flakes and hamper vision.

Always leave trucks with lots of space. A heavily loaded tractor trailer truck may have better traction but can cause havoc if it has to brake or swerve suddenly to avoid smaller cars that try to squeeze into its path while overtaking or merging.

Remember also to look out for hydroplaning when roads are wet with slushy puddles. It is wise to check your vehicle as often as possible and to clear the mess or guck out of the wheel wells and fender areas which may help you steer better.

Always take the time before starting out on a trip or a drive around the corner to properly clear ice and snow off your car windows, hood and roof. Don’t forget to clean your lights as dirty lights can reduce illumination of the roadway by half. You won’t be able to see as well and the other traffic won’t be able to see you. To combat moisture buildup on windows, open a window slightly giving enough room for air to circulate. Still use the heat blowers and defoggers to clear.

Good winter tires give 50% better traction over what is referred to as all-season tires. This may mean 50% better handling and braking. Follow your car manufacturer’s tire air pressure recommendations exactly and check pressures regularly outside. Avoid checking them in a warm garage as it may affect the results. Under inflation is very hard on tire life and reduces control of the car while over inflation reduces contact with the road and creates a safety hazard, especially in rain or snow. A drop of 11 degrees C reduces tire pressure apparently by 2 psi.

One of the most common winter accidents is sliding into another car because there just wasn’t enough room to stop. So space your distance from other vehicles generously.

Allow for extra time to get to your destination. One of the most common causes for accidents are believed to be the desire to rush to make it on “time”. Poor weather driving conditions while extremely dangerous to whether you even make it to your destination “alive” means you should allow generously for time. Live earlier and don’t worry if you arrive late. People will understand why your late! What they won’t understand is why you were rushing and got in an accident and got hurt. Allow for lots of extra time in bad weather.

It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Also consider these:

– Let your windows fully defrost before your drive. People are becoming more aware of idling engines and their hazards on the environment and usage of gas but sometimes personal safety must come first.

If you warm up your car before you drive, make sure it is in a well-ventilated area to avoid carbon monoxide build-up.

– Keep towels in the car to wipe off headlights when they become dirty and snow covered. But remember never to pull off on the shoulder on busy roads to clear the dirt. Instead, carefully drive to a safe and spacious spot (garage/gas station, restaurant) to avoid collisions with other drivers and severe personal injury.

– Maintenance checks: coolant: make sure it is properly mixed and will not freeze. Engine oil: use lighter weight oil to ensure easier starts. Washer fluid: make sure it has an antifreeze, smear agent in it and keep extra fluid in the vehicle. Battery: have ti tested and replace it if it is not at peak performance as cold weather wreaks havoc on batteries.

– Remain vigilant even though your car has ABS brakes and traction control: pumping the brakes on cars equipped with ABS will reduce the effectiveness of the brakes. Refer to your owners manual for specific instructions on your vehicles’ s braking system.

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