It’s news that many people don’t want to hear: The Farmer’s Almanac says it’s going to be a bitter cold, snowy winter. And while that may not be the case – after all, predictions have been wrong before – we do live in Canada and therefore, it’s important to be prepared for quickly-changing conditions. November is a good time to brush up on your winter driving skills and get your emergency kit in order so you have everything in order for the months to come.
Book a Winter Tune-Up and Get Your Snow Tires on
It’s always a good idea to book your car for a tune-up before the first big snowstorm strikes, not just for a regular check-up but also to install your snow tires. A good rule of thumb is to put the tires on once the temperature is consistently 7° Celsius or colder.
If you don’t have snow tires, strongly consider investing in them. Because the grooves in winter tires are deeper than in summer or all-season tires, they provide your vehicle with superior traction and grip and maintain their elasticity in temperatures as low as -30° Celsius. They’re just as essential for city driving as they are for the countryside, but in order for them to work properly, you must install all four as installing just two can put you and your vehicle in danger.
Also read: 10 car insurance myths debunked
Still not convinced? Consider this: many car insurance companies offer a discount for using winter tires, which can save you up to five per cent on your premiums. Insurance companies know a thing or two about risk, and if they’re willing to lower your premium because your swap out your tires seasonally, they must work.
Check the Forecast Before Setting Out
If snow is in the forecast, leave extra early and check traffic reports so you know which streets and highways to avoid. Also be prepared for road closures while you’re on route and be familiar with alternate routes. And, if it’s a severe storm and your travel is non-essential, don’t risk it – stay home.
When choosing your outfit, wear clothing and footwear that’s appropriate for outside the car in case you get stranded. However, make sure the items won’t hinder your driving ability or movement in any way.
Clear all Snow off Your Car
You’re likely familiar with this situation: you’re on the roads just hours after a snowstorm, the sun is out, the roads are finally clear and bam! – your windshield suddenly gets covered in a layer of snow and ice that blew off the roof of the car in front of you. Be considerate of other drivers and brush all snow off your vehicle before setting out, rather than just the snow covering your windows. Depending on your jurisdiction, you may risk getting a ticket if you don’t properly clear the ice and snow off your car.
Slow Down and Allow Greater Stopping Distance
Speed limit signs display the maximum speed drivers can safely travel in clear conditions. If visibility is poor and the roads are covered in ice or snow, drive according to the conditions – and not necessarily the speed limit.
It’s also important to increase the distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you. Double the two-second rule and brake earlier and more cautiously than you would in dry, clear conditions. Start braking – if you can do so safely – when the light turns amber and slow down well in advance of pedestrian crosswalks.
Prepare an Emergency Kit
Keep an emergency kit in a waterproof tub or bag in your car. The kit should be well-stocked to help keep you safe, and items should be checked for expiry or wear – and replaced, if necessary – at least once per year. The kit should include:
- A first aid kit: Make sure it is fully stocked with bandages, gauze pads, medical tape and other items, as well as anything specific to a medical condition you have (for example, an extra inhaler if you have asthma.)
- Emergency phone charger:Phone batteries drain quickly. Always have an external battery and charging cord available in the car in case you can’t use your car charger.
- Non-perishable food and water:Energy bars, water and canned food (and a can opener!) will help sustain you should you become stranded in a snowstorm.
- Blankets, extra clothes and footwear, and gloves: This includes several thermal blankets, dry socks, gloves and a change of clothes.
- A folding shovel and cat litter or sand:Shovels can help dig you out of a snowbank, while litter or sand can give you traction if your tires are spinning.
- A flashlight (wind up or battery-operated), extra batteries, waterproof matches and emergency candles: Also have something available to hold the candle if it gets too hot, such as a deep can.
- Road flares and a reflective safety vest: These can help other motorists spot you if you have to pull over for any reason. Place the flares far enough away from the car so that other vehicles can safely stop.
- Heat Packets: These heat up automatically without any power source and can keep your hands and feet warm.
- Windshield washer fluid and antifreeze: Make sure you have extra bottles in the car, in addition to keeping everything topped up under the hood.
- Other essentials: This includes a Swiss Army knife, jump starter and jump starter cables, a tow chain or rope, ice scraper and brush, a whistle, paper towels, screw driver and duct tape, fire extinguisher, properly inflated spare tire, and a wheel wrench and jack.
Keep Your Tank Topped Up
It’s never a good idea to keep driving until your gas gauge is close to empty, but in the winter, that needle shouldn’t go below a half a tank before you fill up. Doing so limits condensation and reduces the chance that your gas line will freeze, and also gives your car extra fuel in case you’re stranded and need to keep the engine on to stay warm. Furthermore, it helps to avoid that last-minute panic you may experience when the little light next to the gas gauge begins flashing.
Don’t Let Your Guard Down
According to Transport Canada’s National Collision Database, most winter accidents occur when the weather is calm and not during storms. That means even on a crisp, clear and sunny day, you should still play it safe. Some surfaces may be covered in black ice or something else you cannot see. You also can’t account for other drivers’ behaviours. Use common sense, follow these tips and stay safe all winter long.
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