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10 Tips For Safe Winter Driving

You may have wished for a white Christmas from the warm confines of your cozy house, but it’s much easier to drive on a road without snow and ice.  If you do find yourself driving on the snow, it’s best to be prepared. Whether it’s in the city or heading out on a big trip, here are some winter driving tips to keep you safe.

First, if it’s unsafe to drive – you’re hearing about collisions or if conditions outside create low visibility – look for an alternative mode of transportation or reschedule your plans. Avoiding accidents will give you better and cheaper car insurance quotes when it comes time for renewal. Remember, your safety should always come first.

Winter driving - safe driving tips before you drive

1. Prepare your vehicle for winter driving.

This includes having an emergency kit in the car with blankets, flares, and jumper cables. You should also install winter tires which can give you a cheaper Ontario car insurance quote whereas in Quebec, you could receive a fine for driving without winter tires. Double check that you have windshield wiper fluid and a good ice scraper and snow brush, too.

2. Plan your trip

Where are you going? Are the roads cleared of snow? In Ontario, you can use 511 to check road conditions, view highway cameras, and even enter where you start and end your journey and pick the safest route.  You can also track road plows to avoid them or follow in their path.

3. Give yourself extra time

Give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. Collisions and dangerous conditions cause everyone to be a little slower. You don’t need to panic, speed up, or make any rash decisions on your way. The extra time will put you at ease.

4. Charge up your phone

Cell phones can be invaluable for calling someone in an emergency or tracking your location should the need arise. It’s a good idea to stay in communication with the people you’ll be visiting or with family back at home, so everyone is aware of your status.

5. Check your car

Scrape off ice and snow from your windows, your roof, side-view mirrors, your wiper blades, and your hood. You don’t want to drive and have loose snow flying in your face. You want clear vision everywhere you look.

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Winter driving - safe driving tips on the road

1. Drive slow & steady

The biggest cause of winter collisions is driving too quickly. Let the drivers around you know your intentions – use your signals, check your mirrors, and change lanes when appropriate. Don’t take sharp turns which could cause your wheels to lock up. Don’t brake abruptly and always keep a good distance.

2. Stay off the bumper

Don’t tailgate other cars. In icy conditions, cars can take much longer to stop compared to a dry road. Keep a safe distance from the cars in front of you to allow for a safe stop.

3. Before you turn, apply the brakes

Signal your intentions with your indicators, check your blind spots, gently apply your brakes and slowly make the turn when appropriate. At night, be extra cautious watching for pedestrians and cyclists.

4. Learn to control skids and lockouts.

Your car will respond differently to a skid depending on whether it has rear wheel, front wheel or four-wheel drive. If your vehicle has an anti-lock braking system (ABS), learn how to use it correctly (e.g. don’t pump the brakes). Newer vehicles often have Electronic Stability Control (ESC) which is a system to help you stay in control if you suddenly need to brake or swerve. Transport Canada says ESC could reduce the number of crashes involving a loss of control by 29%  Check out Transport Canada’s page on safe winter driving for more detailed information and lots of helpful links.

5. Pay attention

It seems obvious when you’re driving but in dangerous conditions, the possibilities are endless. Double check that your lights are turned on. Turn your phone off or put it in driving mode. Don’t use cruise control because your mind may drift. If you’re tired, find a rest stop. You need to be fully aware because any maneuvers you make are more difficult in the snow.

If you are in an accident, stay calm, stay inside your car to be safe, and contact the police or a tow truck company. You should also inform your insurance provider and ask them what you should do. If your rates go up after an accident, it might be worth it to compare car insurance from other providers. In fact, some providers even offer accident forgiveness protection as an add-on to your existing coverage, but you’d need it prior to the accident.

If you want to save money on car insurance, the best way is to drive safe, take extra time, and be cautious (and of course, compare quotes with us).

In summary, here are ten tips for safe winter driving

Before you drive

  • Prepare your vehicle
  • Plan your trip
  • Give yourself extra time
  • Charge up your phone
  • Check and clean your car

While your driving

  • Drive slow & steady
  • Keep a safe distance
  • Apply brakes before a turn
  • Learn to control skids and lockouts
  • Pay attention


Photo by Brady Cook on Unsplash