10 Winter Driving Safety Tips

car and winter road

Winter driving conditions can change on a dime. One minute it’s smooth sailing on a plowed and salted road, and the next, you might find yourself driving in whiteout blizzard conditions. Sudbury and the surrounding Northern Ontario region is notorious for having extreme winter weather and it’s in your best interest to be as informed as possible when driving in these conditions. Be prepared for whatever the weather throws at you with these 10 Winter Driving Safety Tips that our team at Auto Depot Sudbury have listed out below.

1. Put Together a “Winter Survival Kit”

Having a “Winter Survival Kit” in your vehicle can prove to be beneficial, especially in emergency situations. You never know when you’re going to need emergency supplies when on the road so having a bin with winter driving essentials in your vehicle is always a smart idea. We recommend that your survival kit include items such as: 

  • First Aid Kit
  • Booster Cables
  • Windshield Washer Fluid
  • Emergency Traffic Triangle
  • Winter Work Gloves
  • Small Shovel
  • Flashlight
  • Snow Brush
  • Safety Vest 
  • Water Bottles 
  • Non-Perishable Snacks

2. Check Weather & Road Conditions Often

Make sure to check the weather forecast and current road conditions prior to heading out and hitting the roads. Planning out a route ahead of time and accounting for potential travel delays can help ensure that you arrive at your destination safely and on time. Check current road and weather conditions online using your preferred navigation and weather apps, or dial 511 to receive real-time driving updates from Ontario’s Travel Hotline service.

3. Maintain a Safe Distance Behind Snow Plows

Should you find yourself driving behind a snow plow, make sure that you maintain a safe distance. After a heavy snowfall, groups of snow plows typically work side-by-side to clear the snow off of major roads and highways. Snow plow drivers do not always have the best visibility and can create clouds of snow that can reduce your visibility as well. Practice patience and maintain a safe distance behind snow plows to ensure that you have a safe drive.

4. Install Winter Tires on your Vehicle

Most vehicles are sold with all-season tires and because of their name, it’s not surprising that drivers assume they’re fit for use in all four seasons. The problem is, all-season tires are not the same as winter tires. They are made from a different rubber compound and have different tread patterns that result in them losing traction when temperatures dip below 7 degrees Celsius. On the other hand winter tires are specifically engineered to perform optimally during winter weather conditions. They provide better traction, handling and can shorten your vehicle's braking distance by as much as 25% when compared to all-season tires. Additionally, drivers who use winter tires are eligible for an insurance discount.

5. Schedule for Extra Travel Time

A tip that works year-round, scheduling extra time for unforeseen circumstances allows you to worry less about being late and focus more on the road ahead. Don't rely on the estimated time of arrival that your GPS gives you as winter road conditions can rapidly change. Be sure to drive accordingly, check road conditions before heading out and as a rule of thumb, leave an extra 15 to 20 minutes earlier than necessary.

6. Fully Clear Snow & Ice from your Vehicle

Before heading out onto the road, it’s good practice to ensure that your vehicle is cleared of as much snow as possible. Use a snow brush and ice scraper to clear off all of your windows, mirrors and lights. Use your vehicle’s A/C system to clear up any foggy windows to ensure that your visibility isn't poor. Most importantly, brush off any ice or snow from your roof as blowing snow and falling ice are potential hazards for other motorists on the road.

7. Wear Comfortable Clothes

It's a good idea to bundle up in the winter time, but having too many layers can actually restrict your movement when sitting in the driver seat. A thick winter coat can make it difficult to move around and check your blind spot. It’s good practice to remove any restricting clothing when driving so that you have the freedom of movement you need to see your surroundings.

8. If Possible, Maintain a Full Tank of Gasoline

This one may seem like an odd tip, especially with the rising cost of gas nowadays, but it’s rooted in science. Keeping your gas tank filled can help reduce the amount of moisture in your vehicle’s fuel system, thus ensuring that your vehicle reliably starts every time you need it. An additional benefit of this is that a full tank of gas adds extra weight to your vehicle, which helps in slowing it down during emergency situations..

9. Avoid Using Cruise Control During Inclement Weather

Cruise control is a wonderful feature that allows you to relax and remain comfortable, especially during long highway drives. However, it’s not advisable to rely on your vehicle’s cruise control if driving conditions are bad, especially during a serious snowstorm or blizzard. Even the most advanced cruise control systems can’t recognize nuances and hazards on the road like you can. It's easy to lose control of your vehicle in bad weather so avoid using cruise control altogether.

10. Find Out the Best Way to Recover from a Skid/Slide

How your vehicle responds to a skid depends on its drivetrain configuration. Rear-wheel drive vehicles react differently to skids when compared to front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles. It’s in your best interest to know how your specific vehicle reacts to a skid and how you should react to it and avoid a potential accident. Furthermore, if your vehicle is equipped with an anti-lock braking system (ABS), learn how to use it correctly.

By following these ten winter safety driving tips, you help ensure that your winter commute is as safe and stress-free as possible. Practicing safe driving techniques, being prepared for emergency situations and being courteous towards other motorists, all help to ensure that the roads remain safe, even in the most harrowing winter conditions. If you’re interested in purchasing a high-quality used vehicle that’s more than ready to face the cold Northern Ontario winters, visit Auto Depot Sudbury at 933 Kingsway and speak with one of our friendly and knowledgeable sales consultants, today!