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9 Tips for Driving in Dangerous Winter Weather

Author Mary Chong
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Are you planning a Winter Road Trip?

Dangerous driving conditions are always a factor when temperatures are below freezing and there are snow and ice on the roads. However, many winter driving hazards are not caused by the weather alone but are caused by human error.

Read our winter driving safety tips for your next Winter Road Trip

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Watch your speed when roads are icy or slippery

Drivers who go too fast for the conditions cause danger. Because they take foolhardy risks, they’re also putting all other drivers in jeopardy. If you’re a cautious driver on an icy road and see a driver going too fast for the weather conditions, pull over. Wait until the car is far ahead of you and avoid the situation altogether. In extreme cases, while you’re pulled over, be a good neighbour and report the dangerous driver to local authorities.

Make sure your car is in good condition

If you plan to drive on an icy road or highway before you venture out, make sure your tires, engine, brakes, windshield wipers, and everything else are in good working order. A driver with bad tires or faulty brakes is a hazard to everyone else on the road.

Keep your car clear of snow

snow covered car driving in winter

Make sure that you’ve removed all the snow from the roof of your vehicle. You never know when a strong gust of wind will dump it all on your windshield and impair your visibility while driving. Keeping your roof clear also prevents the snow from blowing off the top of YOUR car onto the car behind you.  While you have the snowbrush in hand, make sure that all your exterior mirrors, windows, and lights are cleared of snow and dirt-free for optimum visibility.

Plan ahead for the weather and the roads

Get the latest information on road conditions or any possible delays you may encounter. Use your Global Positioning System (GPS), radio, or favourite weather app on your phone to keep you informed. If you believe driving will be too dangerous or your proposed route is blocked, find an alternative road, or wait until the roadways are clear.

Driving in dangerous winter weather

Stay alert when driving in winter weather

Sleepy and over-tired drivers can cause accidents in perfect driving conditions, but this is especially dangerous on ice or snow-covered winter roads. Driving tired is particularly hazardous at night when there are lots of cars and trucks on long-distance trips. Lack of proper rest or sleep reduces the ability to react quickly to potential dangers on the road.

If you’re on a long road trip and must drive at night, take rest breaks at least once every three hours. At many truck stops or rest stations, you can sleep undisturbed for several hours. Then, after coffee and a nourishing meal, you’ll resume your journey refreshed and alert.

Read this article for more long-distance driving tips.

Drive cautiously in construction zones

truck driving in winter

Driving near construction zones where crews are doing road work can be dangerous when roads are covered with ice and snow. Although there are usually signs and lights alerting drivers in advance of congested road areas, there are always potential dangers.

Some drivers may not see the warnings in time and apply their brakes too suddenly for road conditions, causing out-of-control skidding. As soon as you see the warning signs, begin to slow down gradually, follow the road workers’ instructions ahead, and stay alert for the other drivers around you.

Be alert for snowploughs and salters when driving in winter

snowplow winter driving

Snowploughs and salters are an absolute necessity for our roads when winter weather is upon us. Unfortunately, with their pros, they also bring cons. As ploughs clear the path of snow, they often slow down traffic behind them, cause snowbanks and as a result, frustrate drivers who try to avoid them by driving around these mammoth machines. If you get in this situation, practice patience as they do their jobs, be alert for other drivers and drive safely. 

Watch out for potholes

winter pothole

After long winters in some northernmost areas, the roads go unrepaired until the weather permits the work. With the freeze and thaw of winter months and heavy traffic, some streets have cracks and ruts that could be hazardous.

If you drive on roads that are pitted with potholes, slow down, and be careful. There’s not only the danger of losing control of your car, but also the possibility of heavy and expensive damage to your tires, exhaust system, and the undercarriage of your vehicle.

Look out for pedestrians when driving in winter

person walking on winter road

There are many potential people hazards that go with dangerous icy and snowy winter road conditions. Drivers must always be alert when approaching pedestrian crossings, school zones, and other areas of foot traffic. Snowbanks on the side of the road may hide people behind them. They must always look out for people who may be unaware of the difficulty drivers have to stop suddenly. Drivers must also watch for joggers and bikers who are out on the roads very early in the morning and other times when visibility is limited.

Dangerous winter road conditions, especially when there are ice and snow on the road, require drivers always to be extra careful and alert.

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Do you have any additional tips for driving in winter weather?

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