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Winter Driving Tips

  • 11 January 2018
  • Author: Safety Ahead
  • Number of views: 1645
Winter Driving Tips

Given the recent weather and road conditions in Edmonton, Alberta, what better time to discuss the do’s and don’ts of winter driving? Edmonton experienced an extremely high amount of vehicles collisions on January 11, 2018 due to the icy road conditions. Edmonton Police responded to over 70 property damage vehicle collisions and 5 injury collisions in a span of 4 hours during the early morning hours. The majority of these could have been prevented by driving in a manner that is appropriate for the weather and road conditions. Please have a look at the tips below to help improve your winter driving awareness!

Driving Tips

  • Plan adequate time for travel and plan the route. Ensure your destination is aware of your starting point and give them an estimated time of arrival.
  • When travelling, check the weather conditions/highway conditions before you leave. Plan or alter your trip accordingly.
  • Allow your vehicle enough time to heat up prior to operating.
  • Ensure the windshield, lights and mirrors are clear of snow/ice prior to driving.
  • Never panic if found in an emergency situation.
  • Have a communication device to call for help/tow trucks/Emergency response.
  • Never attempt to leave your vehicle and walk in poor weather conditions.
  • Do not leave your vehicle unlocked while it is warming up, many vehicle thefts occur during this time.
  • Do not use cruise control in icy road conditions.
  • Ensure you are mentally alert and not fatigued in any way if you are planning to drive. Do not attempt driving if you are tired, stressed or upset in any way.
  • Ensure you have an Emergency Kit in your vehicle that includes items such as emergency blankets, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first aid kit, emergency snacks such as granola bars and dried fruit, water, road triangles, an ice scraper/snow brush, a snow shovel, etc.

Good Driving Habits during Winter Conditions

  • Buckle up before you start driving. Keep your seat belt buckled at all times.
  • SLOW DOWN! - Posted speed limits are for ideal travel conditions. Driving at reduced speeds is the best precautionary measure against any misfortune while driving on slippery roads.
  • Be alert. Black ice will make a road look like shiny new asphalt. Pavement should look grey-white in winter. "Black ice" is invisible.
  • Do not use cruise control. Winter driving requires you to be in full control at all times.
  • Reduce your speed while approaching intersections covered with ice or snow.
  • Allow for extra travelling time or even consider delaying a trip if the weather is inclement.
  • Drive with low-beam headlights on. Not only are they brighter than daytime running lights but turning them on also activates the tail lights. This makes your vehicle more visible.
  • Lengthen your following distance behind the vehicle ahead of you. Stopping distance on an icy road is double that of stopping on a dry one. For example, from around 45 meters (140 ft) at the speed of 60 km/h, to 80 meters (over 260 ft) on an icy road surface.
  • Stay in the right-hand lane except when passing and use turn signals when changing lanes.
  • Steer with smooth and precise movements. Changing lanes too quickly and jerky steering while braking or accelerating can cause skidding.
  • Be aware and slow down when you see a sign warning that you are approaching a bridge. Steel and concrete bridges are likely to be icy even when there is no ice on the asphalt surface, (because bridges over open air cool down faster than roads which tend to be insulated somewhat by solid ground.)
  • Consider getting off the road before getting stranded if the weather is worsening.
  • Be patient and pass other cars only when and if it is safe to do so.


Reacting if you start to skid

  • Look where you want your vehicle to go and steer in this direction.
  • If you're using automatic transmission, shift to neutral. However, if you cannot do that immediately, do not touch the transmission gear.
  • If you're using manual transmission, declutch.


If you get stuck or stranded in the snow

  • Don't panic.
  • Avoid over-exertion and over-exposure to the cold. Cold weather can put extra stress on the heart and contribute to the hazards of over-exertion. Sweaty clothes next to the skin are not good insulators against the cold.
  • Stay in the car if you cannot shovel your car out of the snow.
  • Stay in the car in blizzard conditions - Do not leave the car for assistance unless help is visible within about 90 metres or 100 yards.
  • Turn on flashing lights or set up flares. A brightly coloured cloth on the radio antenna may make your vehicle more visible in daylight.
  • Run the car engine occasionally (about 10 minutes every hour) to provide heat (and to conserve fuel). Ensure that the tail exhaust pipe is free of snow and keep the window opened slightly (on the side shielded from the wind) to prevent the build-up of carbon monoxide when the engine is running.
  • Bundle up in a blanket. If there is more than one person in the car, sharing the blankets will be warmer than either person alone in a blanket.
  • Wear a hat and scarf - the head and neck are major sources of heat loss from the body.
  • Monitor for any signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
  • Never fall asleep when alone. If there is more than one person in the car, take turns sleeping.
  • Do not stay in one position too long. Do some exercises to help the circulation - move arms and legs, clap your hands, etc.
  • Stay alert and watch for traffic or rescuers.


Above all, pay attention when driving during winter conditions and drive defensively. You may not be able to control the other vehicles on the road but you can prepare yourself use the above mentioned tips to assist in ensuring your arrive to your destination safely. From everyone here at Safety Ahead, keep your eyes on the road and stay safe out there!


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