Safe Driving on Icy and Snowy Roads

by Jason Spratt

How to Drive Safely on Icy and Snowy Roads

Driving in winter weather can be a challenge for any driver, but especially for those who love cars and enjoy driving them. As a car enthusiast, I have driven many different vehicles in various road conditions, and I have learned some valuable lessons along the way. Here are some tips on how to drive safely on icy and snowy roads, based on my personal experience and research.

Prepare Your Vehicle

Before you hit the road, make sure your vehicle is ready for winter. This means checking the following:

  • Tires: Use winter tires that are designed for snow and ice, and have the same type, size, speed rating, and load index on all four wheels. Winter tires have a pictograph of a peaked mountain with a snowflake on the sidewall, indicating that they meet specific snow traction performance requirements. Check the tire pressure and tread depth regularly, and adjust them according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Battery: Cold weather can reduce the battery’s performance and lifespan, so make sure it is fully charged and in good condition. If the battery is weak, replace it or have the charging system checked by a professional.
  • Lights: Check all the lights on your vehicle, including headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, and fog lights. Make sure they are clean and working properly, and replace any burned-out bulbs. Use your low beams or fog lights when driving in snow or fog, as high beams can reflect off the snow and reduce your visibility.
  • Fluids: Check the levels and quality of the fluids in your vehicle, such as engine oil, coolant, windshield washer fluid, and brake fluid. Use fluids that are suitable for low temperatures, and top them up as needed. Keep an extra bottle of windshield washer fluid in your trunk, as you may need to use it more often in winter.
  • Wipers: Check the condition and performance of your windshield wipers, and replace them if they are worn or damaged. Use wipers that are designed for winter, as they have a rubber coating that prevents ice buildup. Clear any snow or ice from your windshield and wipers before driving, and use the defroster to keep the windshield clear.

Plan Your Trip

Before you start your journey, plan your route and check the weather and road conditions. You can use online tools such as Google Maps or The Weather Network to get the latest information and alerts. Avoid driving in areas that are prone to avalanches, landslides, or flooding, and choose routes that are well-maintained and plowed. Allow extra time for your trip, and let someone know your destination and expected arrival time. Pack an emergency kit in your vehicle, including items such as:

  • Blanket: A warm blanket can help you stay warm and comfortable if you get stranded or have to wait for assistance.
  • Flashlight: A flashlight can help you see and be seen in the dark or in poor visibility. Use a flashlight with a long battery life, and keep extra batteries in your glove box.
  • Shovel: A shovel can help you dig out your vehicle if it gets stuck in snow or ice. Use a shovel that is compact and lightweight, and store it in your trunk or under your seat.
  • Sand or kitty litter: Sand or kitty litter can help you create traction if your tires are spinning on slippery surfaces. Sprinkle some sand or kitty litter under and around your tires, and try to move your vehicle slowly and steadily.
  • Jumper cables: Jumper cables can help you start your vehicle if the battery dies or loses power. Use jumper cables that are long enough and have sturdy clamps, and follow the instructions on how to use them safely.
  • First aid kit: A first aid kit can help you treat minor injuries or illnesses that may occur during your trip. Use a first aid kit that contains items such as bandages, gauze, antiseptic, painkillers, and scissors, and keep it in a dry and accessible place.

Drive Smoothly

When driving on icy and snowy roads, the key is to be smooth and gentle with your steering, braking, and acceleration. This will help you maintain control and traction, and avoid skidding or sliding. Here are some tips on how to drive smoothly in winter:

  • Reduce your speed: Driving too fast is one of the main causes of accidents in winter, as it reduces your reaction time and increases your stopping distance. Drive at a speed that is appropriate for the road and weather conditions, and follow the posted speed limits or lower. Leave enough space between you and the vehicle in front of you, and avoid sudden or frequent lane changes.
  • Brake slowly: Braking too hard or too late can cause your wheels to lock up and your vehicle to skid. Brake slowly and gradually, and use the anti-lock braking system (ABS) if your vehicle has one. To use the ABS, press the brake pedal firmly and hold it until you come to a complete stop. Do not pump the brake pedal, as this will interfere with the ABS and reduce its effectiveness.
  • Steer smoothly: Steering too sharply or too quickly can cause your vehicle to lose balance and traction. Steer smoothly and precisely, and avoid making abrupt or unnecessary movements. If your vehicle starts to skid, do not panic or overcorrect. Instead, steer in the direction that you want to go, and ease off the gas or brake until you regain control.
  • Accelerate gently: Accelerating too fast or too much can cause your wheels to spin and your vehicle to slide. Accelerate gently and steadily, and use the lowest gear possible. If your vehicle has a traction control system (TCS), use it to prevent wheel spin and improve stability. To use the TCS, press the button or switch that activates it, and follow the instructions on your dashboard.

Be Prepared for Emergencies

Despite your best efforts, you may encounter some emergencies or challenges while driving on icy and snowy roads. Here are some tips on how to deal with them:

  • If you get stuck: If your vehicle gets stuck in snow or ice, do not spin your wheels or rev your engine, as this will only dig you deeper. Instead, try to rock your vehicle back and forth by shifting between forward and reverse, and applying gentle pressure on the gas pedal. If this does not work, use your shovel, sand, or kitty litter to clear some space around your tires, and try again. If you still cannot move your vehicle, call for help and stay inside your vehicle until help arrives.
  • If you have a flat tire: If your tire goes flat or blows out, do not brake or steer suddenly, as this will cause your vehicle to swerve or skid. Instead, hold the steering wheel firmly and ease off the gas pedal. Move to the right side of the road as soon as it is safe, and turn on your hazard lights. If you have a spare tire and the tools to change it, do so carefully and quickly. If you do not have a spare tire or the tools, or if you are not comfortable changing it, call for roadside assistance and wait for help.
  • If you have a breakdown: If your vehicle breaks down or stops working, do not try to restart it, as this may damage it further. Instead, move to the right side of the road as soon as it is safe, and turn on your hazard lights. If you have a cell phone and a signal, call for roadside assistance and explain your situation and location. If you do not have a cell phone or a signal, or if you are in a remote area, stay inside your vehicle and wait for help. Do not leave your vehicle or try to flag down other drivers, as this may put you in danger.

Enjoy the Ride

Driving on icy and snowy roads can be challenging, but also rewarding. As a car enthusiast, I enjoy the thrill and the skill of driving in winter, and I appreciate the beauty and the diversity of the Canadian landscape. By following these tips, you can drive safely and confidently on icy and snowy roads, and enjoy the ride as well. Happy driving!

Disclaimer: This post provides general information but is not legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice. Always consult with a professional for specific legal advice.

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