Severe weather can be both frightening and dangerous for travellers. Winter storms, bad weather, and sloppy road conditions factor in nearly half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter. Drivers should know how to deal with winter road emergencies.
Cold Weather Driving Tips
- Keep a bundle of cold-weather gear in your car, such as extra food and water, warm clothing, a flashlight, an ice scraper, blankets, medications, and more.
- Make sure your tires are correctly inflated and have plenty of tread.
- Keep at least half a tank of fuel in your vehicle at all times.
- Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
- Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface, such as on ice and snow.
Tips for Driving in the Snow
- Stay home. Only go out if necessary. Even if you drive well in bad weather, avoiding taking unnecessary risks by heading out onto the roads is better.
- Drive slowly. Always adjust your speed to account for lower traction when driving on snow or ice.
- Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Apply the gas slowly to regain traction and avoid skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry, and take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on slippery and icy roads.
- Increase your following distance to five to six seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop quickly.
- Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
- Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. Do it if you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes.
- Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads will make your wheels spin. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill, and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the hill crest, slowly reduce your speed and proceed downhill.
- Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia on a flat roadway before you take the hill.
Tips for Long-Distance Winter Trips
- Be Prepared: Have an Auto Repair facility check your vehicle before hitting the road.
- Check the Weather: Check the weather along your route and delay your trip if bad weather is expected.
- Stay Connected: Before hitting the road, notify others and let them know your route, destination, and estimated arrival time.
- If you get stuck in the snow:
- Stay with your vehicle: Your vehicle provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Do not try to walk in a severe storm. It is easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.
- Don’t overexert yourself: Listen to your body when digging out your vehicle and stop if you become tired.
- Be Visible: Tie a brightly coloured cloth to your vehicle's antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled-up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
- Clear the Exhaust Pipe: Ensure the exhaust pipe is not clogged with snow, ice, or mud. A blocked exhaust pipe can cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the vehicle's passenger compartment while the engine is running.
- Stay Warm: Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers, or paper maps. Pre-pack blankets and heavy clothing to use in case of an emergency.
- Conserve Fuel: If possible, only run the engine and heater long enough to remove the chill. This will help to conserve fuel.
Be aware and stay safe on the roads!