Driving in a winter wonderland

I am staring out the window upon these gorgeous white flakes of snow falling to the ground.  Yes, it’s winter and yes, even though I grew up in this awesome country of ours, I somehow am always “surprised” every winter when we get snow.

Now whether you are driving on the slushy, wet roads of Victoria, BC or trying to see past the major snow heaps in London, Ontario (wow was Mother Nature generous there!), the main thing all drivers need to remember is that our Canadian winter season demands an adjustment in driving style.

Here’s a good rule of thumb – In good weather your following distance is a minimum of two seconds in the city and three on the highway. However, when the weather conditions are less than ideal and it’s more difficult to stop, you should increase your following distance and adjust your speed accordingly.

Safety, safety, safety first.  Did I mention safety? Read this next part and remember it before heading out onto a slippery road. If you suddenly hit ice or lose control, shift into neutral (or put in the clutch if you have a standard transmission), and take your foot off the gas.  Then look well ahead and steer immediately to keep the vehicle straight.   Once under control, steer in the direction you want to go.

Do you know how to brake in an emergency?  It can be tricky to do on snow-covered roads.  Here’s the hard and fast rule for a car  WITH ABS brakes – Step on the brake pedal as fast and as hard as you can. Do not pump the brakes! Maintain hard and continuous pressure to allow the ABS computer to do the work. Those pulsation and rattling sounds you’ll hear – totally normal. Use the steering control ABS gives you and steer yourself towards an escape route.

Emergency braking for a car WITHOUT ABS brakes.  Different than the above. Use threshold braking.  What does this mean?  Apply the brakes hard but not quite hard enough to lock the wheels. Four-wheel lock-up reduces the stopping distance on a snow-covered road but also takes away all steering control. Threshold braking allows the driver to steer and maintain control.

So don’t let those lovely snowflakes fool you.  It can get messy out there! Hopefully these winter driving tips help to steer you safely along our Canadian roads this winter.

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