Winter Driving

When it comes to winter driving, I'll guess that most people arriving in Canada will not have experienced severe winter weather "Canadian Style". When the first dump of snow arrives the prospect of driving in several inches of snow and ice can be daunting. The Canadians are geared up for the winter driving conditions and the roads are ploughed and sanded very quickly.

Once the snow stops, it doesn't take too long for the ice and snow to go from the main highways. The residential areas and back roads may well stay covered in ice for weeks but have reduced speed limits anyway.

Confidence is the key to winter driving and it is worth having a practice in an empty parking lot just to see how the vehicle handles. The tyres are critical, though all seasons are good for the first year of use, as a newcomer a good quality set of winter tyres are a must. I fitted Bridgestone Blizzaks and found the difference amazing. Though you still have to be careful the extra grip is very welcome. Definitely slow down, leave a bigger gap than normal from the car in front and if things are going wrong, try and steer away from oncoming traffic!

Throughout the winter months, when you are sat at traffic lights, always ensure that there are no out of control vehicles sliding through when your light turns green! It is also worth checking all year round as some drivers like to jump the lights at speed.

The major rule is: If you have any concerns that the conditions are too bad, just don't go out. There are regular traffic advisories on local radio, TV and the net so keep an eye on those as the forecasted weather can change very quickly.

If at any time you see anyone stuck or stranded while you are travelling, you MUST stop and offer assistance.

Most Provincial driving handbooks offer some excellent driving tips but one site worth is the weather channels Winter Driving Tips.

Vehicle Condition

It's extremely important to ensure that your vehicle is ready for winter driving. All auto shops offer winter preparation packages and if you aren't up for a bit of DIY its well worth paying for. There's nothing more certain than frigid temperatures showing up any faults or weaknesses in the vehicle. Breaking down in the wind and rain is one thing but in -35 its plain dangerous if you're isolated.

Use the proper windshield washer fluid rated for winter temperatures as any melt will quickly obscure your vision. It can also pay to have a spare jug of it in your trunk. In snow keep your heat on the windshield as the wipers freeze up very fast and hinder your sight. If you have heated mirrors definitely use them!

If you are travelling in isolated area's or long distances you must pack a winter driving survival kit. With modern technology the most important tool is a cellphone and even GPS transmitters are fairly cheap.

Many automotive stores sell kits but as a minimum I'd say have blankets, shovel, first aid kit, towrope, extra warm clothing for each occupant, salt pack or sand for extra traction, candles, matches, flashlight and some food would be a good start.

Sunglasses are also essential - especially when the sun glares back off the ice and snow. This is a real hazard if your windshield is dirty as the blinding glare will obliterate your vision!

For your convenience, here are links to other relevant pages:

  1. Alberta
  2. British Columbia
  3. Manitoba
  4. New Brunswick
  5. Newfoundland and Labrador
  1. Nova Scotia
  2. Ontario
  3. Prince Edward Island
  4. Saskatchewan
  5. Winter Driving