Rather than dreading winters in the Great White North, many Canadians relish what Mother Nature has to offer. Snowshoeing in Banff, skiing in B.C., or skating just about anywhere helps residents and tourists alike make the most of frigid temperatures and frequent snowfall. In urban areas such as Toronto, winter festivals feature contests, live music, parades, and fireworks for cold-weather entertainment.

As 20.8 million tourists — an increase of 4.4% from 2016 — crossed Canadian borders in 2017 to seek fun and adventure, winter activities were undoubtedly part of the appeal. In their journeys, visitors and citizens must take precautions to cope with the weather, especially when travelling by automobile.

Here are five wintertime tips for driving in Ontario:

1) Get Winter Tires

Mandatory in Quebec, winter tires should merit strong consideration everywhere in Ontario. Snow and ice are part of the deal, and better traction translates to less chance of accident or injury on the roads. Lighter vehicles such as passenger cars with front-wheel drive stand out as excellent candidates for winter tires, increasing the odds of a safe trip for work or pleasure. Keep in mind that you could receive discounts on car insurance for having winter tires installed (up to 5% in Ontario) or having a roadside assistance program.

2) Downshift Before Hard Braking

In many provinces, motorists will encounter hilly terrain on both upslopes and downslopes. Especially on snow-covered roads, hard braking while descending a hill can cause a vehicle to lose control. Downshifting to a lower gear without jamming the brakes helps reduce speed and lessen the chances of skidding off the road or into another vehicle or pedestrian.

3) Be Prepared for Black Ice

It's difficult to prepare for invisible road hazards, but all drivers need to anticipate black ice conditions. Stay wary of this hazard, particularly when moderate temperatures quickly drop below freezing within a few hours time. What appears as normal, dry pavement may actually present with a thin, imperceptible ice layer that can wreak havoc with drivers who brake hard or turn aggressively.

4) Pack a Survival Kit

Drivers shouldn't venture out in winter weather without planning for an unexpected stop. Stranded motorists are a common occurrence, and preparing for that possibility increases the chance of a positive outcome. In harsh conditions, always keep supplies that include non-perishable food, water, flashlights, booster cables, and some warm clothes (also remember to keep gas tanks topped off for maintaining heat in the vehicle for as long as possible).

5) Drive Conservatively and Slowly in the Snow

All- and four-wheel drive vehicles could assist winter navigation but nothing replaces the practice of taking it slow and easy. Reduced speeds, defensive driving, and heightened awareness will combine to help ensure a safe trip from start to finish. Keeping cars in good operating condition, allowing extra time for trips, and expecting the unexpected will prevent routine travel from spiralling into a full-fledged nightmare.

Last But Not Least

Help is often a phone call away, and subscribing to a roadside assistance service could make the difference between safely arriving at your destination or getting stuck somewhere in between. Almost all Ontario auto insurers offer some form of road service, and if that benefit doesn't exist, shop around for competitive auto insurance quotes and extensive coverages today at Rates.ca.


The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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