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Tips for Driving Safely in the Snow

December 17, 2021

Tips for Driving Safely in the Snow

Driving during winter can be scenic. Imagine passing through a snow-capped mountainside during a road trip. It may seem like an Instagram-worthy picture. However, as picturesque it may be, snow can make driving difficult and even dangerous, resulting in accidents. Many people tend to underestimate how dangerous it is to drive in the snow, even experienced drivers have trouble. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police estimates that about 30% of car collisions occur on wet, snowy, or icy roads.

With this in mind, it is important that you are always ready before embarking on a snowy adventure. You need to know what and how to prepare when driving in inclement weather.
Here are some safety tips for driving in the snow:

Before Driving

  • Make a Travel Plan

Monitor driving conditions and plan accordingly

Plan your route thoroughly before you go. To make your journey as pleasant as possible, do check the news for weather updates. Google Maps and other way-finding apps can also provide you with information on traffic situations, road closures, and snow driving conditions.

Also, look into the locations you intend to pass through. You may have to reroute if they are experiencing bad weather conditions. Make sure you’re up to date on the local weather so you don’t get caught off guard.

  • Prepare Your Vehicle

Check your car’s condition before leaving

Allow extra time to clear snow from your car windows, mirrors, lights, and the top of your roof before leaving. Maintaining your vehicle’s condition lowers your total risk of an accident when driving.

It’s best to winterize your car before the winter season. Tires and tire pressure, batteries, belts and hoses, radiator, oil, lights, brakes, exhaust system, heater/defroster, wipers, and ignition system should all be checked. Maintain enough gas — at least half a tank is recommended. Winter tires or tire chains may be necessary depending on where you drive.

  • ​Carry the Right Supplies
    You never know what could happen on the road, so keep these snow driving essentials in your car:

    • Blanket
    • De-Icer
    • First Aid Kit
    • Flashlight
    • High Visibility Safety Vests to keep you visible if you break down
    • Ice Scraper
    • Map
    • Shovel
    • Snow Shovel
    • Some Food And Drink
    • Warning Triangle

While Driving

  • Drive Carefully

Drive slow and steady

The safest way to drive in snow is to drive with extreme caution. Take extra caution when manipulating the steering wheel, accelerator, and brakes. You are more likely to skid, spin, or collide if your tires fail to maintain their grip. So, you have to anticipate stops, bends, and slopes and change your speed accordingly.

Your tires have to do only one thing at a time. That means you should brake and accelerate in a straight line, and steer only when you aren’t braking or accelerating. You don’t want to be steering when you’re braking, and you don’t want to be braking while you’re turning. Remember, “Slow and steady wins this race.”

  • Look Far Ahead

Always keep your eyes on the road especially at nighttime

The more slippery the road, the more you should keep your eyes ahead and concentrate. Anticipate what you’ll have to do next and plan accordingly. Take every turn slowly. When the road is wet, allow twice the stopping distance, triple on snow, and much more on ice. The idea is to have enough room to brake early while maintaining control of the vehicle.

When driving in the snow at night, it could be difficult to spot an animal, a pedestrian, or any other obstacles on the road. You must maintain your focus to avoid mishaps.

  • Beware of All-Wheel Drive

When the roads are snowy or icy, four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive are excellent options for getting around. They are not, however, magical devices that will prevent you from being involved in an accident. They assist you in maintaining traction while you accelerate, but they do not assist you in braking faster.

Vehicles with all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive are often heavier than vehicles with front- or rear-wheel drive, allowing them to carry greater momentum. Trucks and SUVs with all-wheel-drive have higher centers of gravity than automobiles, making them more likely to roll.

Using four-wheel drive irresponsibly will just get you deeper into the snow before you become stuck. But that being said, a four- or all-wheel-drive car operated properly will perform better than a two-wheel-drive vehicle in winter driving conditions.

  • Check Your Grip

Your available traction will continue to change as road and weather conditions vary along the way on practically any snowy journey. In addition to the traction-control and stability-control warning lights, your anti-lock brake system can assist you in determining how much grip you have on snow-covered roads.

If you’re not sure how much grip you have, ease off on the gas and let your vehicle slow down gradually. Gently apply your brakes to see how much grip you have when you reach a place with low traffic and no ditches on the side of the road. If the car begins to skid instantly, it’s time to adjust your driving to the more slippery circumstances and, if absolutely needed, turn around and return home. The weather during the winter isn’t always the same. For example, packed snow gives far more traction than a thin layer of freezing rain.

  • Read the Road

Check the road condition to see if it's safe to drive on

While you can always stop the car and analyze the surface if you’re unsure (which is a good idea), knowing how to “read the road” can teach you a lot about potential traction. Is it shiny or dull? Does the snow coat the road uniformly or are they in patches? Is the temperature cold enough to produce dry, light snow, or is it warm enough to create a mushy mess?

Shiny, in general, is a terrible thing since it denotes either ice or water. Dry pavement ahead of you can give you a false sense of security, so be wary of shady corners. Also, dry snow is preferable to a mushy slop.

Risks to injury and accidents rise during winter. While this is understandable due to poor weather conditions, this is completely avoidable if you follow these tips for winter driving in Canada.

If for some unfortunate reason, you are involved in an automobile accident, immediately contact a car accident lawyer to defend your legal rights and assist with insurance claims. Linka Law helps clients in a variety of car accident and personal injury issues; contact us for a free consultation at (416) 477-7288.

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