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New Year, New Focus on Safe Driving Habits

Jan 18, 2021

To kick off the new year, the Canada Safety Council would like to remind you that winter driving requires extra caution.

“Winter driving can be challenging at any time but more so when snow and slush interfere with solid contact with the road and the clear visibility we enjoy in the non-winter season,” said Gareth Jones, President and CEO of the Canada Safety Council. “As we move into the season of snow and ice it’s always good to take a minute to remind ourselves of what it takes to drive in winter conditions.”


Adjust your driving habits

Winter brings a set of environmental hazards that aren’t present during the summer. Snowbanks may encroach on roadways, providing more restricted access to some lanes. Give yourself room to manoeuvre your vehicle. Remember: patience is an important tool in our defensive driving toolset that can help keep the roads safe for everyone.

Additionally, obstructions like snowbanks can limit sight lines, making constant awareness of your surroundings more difficult. To counter this, slow down and emphasize seeing and being seen in your priorities. If you can’t see around a corner, move slowly while covering the brakes. Be prepared to stop suddenly if another road user enters your field of vision suddenly.

Give yourself some time before leaving to check the weather conditions and consider canceling or delaying your trip if conditions appear to be worsening. Should you be able to leave safely, clear your car of snow and ice before doing so — it’s more than a suggestion, it’s the law. Uncleared snow and ice can act as a projectile if it comes flying off your vehicle.

“Knowing your current and forecasted weather conditions can make all the difference in preparing you for a safe journey vs. an unexpected one.” says Maureen Rogers, Managing Director, Pelmorex Weather Networks. “Checking the weather for where you are as well as where you are going will help you plan your trip accordingly.”      

Winter Tires

The only thing between your vehicle and the road is your tires, making these a crucial consideration in your safety behind the wheel. During the winter months, the rubber compound in tires that are intended for the winter weather stays softer than other tires, improving traction and grip. They can also reduce braking distances by as much as 25 per cent.

According to a 2020 study done for the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada, 65 per cent of Canadian drivers are using winter tires. (This data does not include Quebec, where it is legally required.)

Winter tires wear out less in the winter weather than in the summer. All-season tires — the popular “alternative” option — sacrifice pliability and flexibility in the winter months. In a situation where a little extra grip is needed, winter tires will be able to provide it. All-season tires will not. Winter tires are absolutely a long-term safety investment and, while the hope is always that the extra safety features won’t be needed, you will be happy to have them when they are needed. Safety must be proactive, not reactive.

Winter tires should be installed when the weather drops below 7 degrees Celsius, as that is when they’re at their most effective.  Be sure that your winter tires come as a matching set and have the three-peak-mountain-and-snowflake icon, designating that the tires meet standards to be classified as winter tires, stamped into the rubber.


Car maintenance

Lastly, make sure your car is winterized and ready for the season. This includes a fully charged battery, a full windshield washer fluid reservoir, a functional heater and defroster and windshield wipers that can withstand the ice and snow without leaving large streaks.

It’s also a great idea to keep a few extra items in your car, including an ice scraper, a spare jug of windshield washer fluid and an emergency survival kit. This should include a charged phone, water and non-perishable food, a flashlight, a blanket, warm clothes, jumper cables, a shovel, traction mats or sand, candles and a book of matches or a lighter.

The winter months can be a tricky time to navigate the roads but patience, calm, preparedness and awareness will go a long way toward ensuring a safe winter driving season.

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For more information, please contact:
Lewis Smith
Manager, National Projects, Canada Safety Council