Winter Driving Tips for Safe Driving in Canada

During winter months, drivers need to be extra careful. No matter what part of Canada you’re driving through, there are going to be challenges to deal with when it comes to winter driving.

Safety is of the utmost importance, so we’ve compiled a list of winter driving tips that we know will be useful, regardless of whether you’re an experienced driver or just a beginner behind the wheel.

Be Prepared for Driving in the Winter Months

First and foremost, it’s important to make sure your car is in good working order and that you have everything you need before hitting the road in the winter.

Plan Ahead

Make sure to check the route you intend to take and plan an alternative route, too. When dealing with extreme conditions, don’t rely solely on GPS. Check the weather forecast and count in some additional transit time due to bad weather.

Check Your Tires

Make sure you invest in good winter tires and have them installed properly. Winter tires offer much better traction on icy roads and in winter conditions in general. Therefore, using them is a must, even in areas where tire change isn’t strictly regulated, especially if you’re driving in snow for the first time.

In British Columbia, it’s mandatory to use winter tires on some highways from October 1 to April 30, while in Quebec, you need to use winter tires from December 1 to March 15. There are no strict regulations in other provinces, but it’s generally a good idea to switch to winter tires by the start of November.

Furthermore, check your tire pressure often, as low temperatures can slowly cause your tires to lose pressure as air condenses, and underinflated tires can affect the handling of your vehicle.

Keep a Full Tank

Taking alternative routes can mean longer driving hours than you originally planned. Also, in situations where you encounter roadblocks and have to wait for the road to clear, your engine will be running idle and burning through more fuel.

Ideal speeds for fuel efficiency range from 50km/h to 80km/h. Higher speeds burn more fuel, and lower speeds mean less momentum, which in turn means more fuel spent on acceleration. So, always be safe and tank up!

EQ Vehicles – Additional Tips for Winter Driving

Electric cars are getting better and better with each generation. No matter if you’re driving a hybrid or a fully electric car, they’re just as good as cars that run on gas. However, there are a few extra things EQ drivers need to know before they hit the road.

The general recommendation is that your car’s range be double the number of kilometres you intend to travel that day.

This doesn’t mean that the battery life is cut in half in cold weather, but the battery depletes faster as the temperature drops. Depending on the exact temperature and the car model, your range could be 25%, or even 45% lower than in ideal conditions, which is between 15°C and 25°C for electric vehicles.

Plug in the battery for 20-30 minutes before your drive, as this will give it significantly better performance during the day.

Keep Ice and Snow off Your Car

Good visibility is vital for safe winter driving. As such, you should make sure your car is snow and ice-free.

Clear the snow build-up from your hood, windshield, and windows. Moreover, make sure to clear all snow from the roof as well, as braking can cause the snow to slide from the roof onto the windshield, which could inhibit visibility while you’re driving.

Your headlights and taillights also need to be fully visible to other drivers, as they need to be aware of your signalization. When it comes to winter driving safety, it’s particularly important that other drivers can see your taillights clearly so that they can decelerate on time, as braking is more difficult on icy roads.

Finally, it’s a good idea to keep a can of de-icer spray at hand, as this could save you a lot of time by helping you remove ice quickly. Also, lift your wipers up when you leave the car outdoors. This way, they won’t freeze, and they can function properly when you need them.

Keep a Safe Distance

If you get caught in a snowstorm, you have to keep a safe distance. This is crucial because you need more space to brake safely. Winter tires help in this respect, but even they can lose traction in certain conditions. For the best traction and easier braking, you’ll need studded tires, especially on mountain roads.

Driving in a Snowstorm

Try to avoid driving in a blizzard at all costs, but if you have to drive through one, keep the following winter driving safety tips in mind:

Avoid using cruise control

When you’re in a storm, you’ll want complete control over your vehicle so that you can react quickly. Using cruise control can cause your vehicle to brake unpredictably or accelerate at a a bad time, which can put you in danger.

Keep your phone fully charged

Be prepared to make a 9-1-1 call in case of an emergency. If you need to drive through areas with poor reception often, you should consider getting a citizens band radio that can be used in areas with no cell phone coverage.

Driving in Difficult Road Conditions

When driving on slippery roads, your car might move in unexpected ways and you can lose control of your vehicle. This is most noticeable when you need to slow down quickly or make a turn. Here are some winter driving tips to keep in mind before your next trip:

  • If you need to slow down on an icy or snowy road, pump your brakes several times instead of slamming them. If your vehicle has an anti-lock braking system, you may notice that the system repeatedly pumps the brakes. This is the same technique that you have to use to prevent the car from sliding.
    If your car uses a manual transmission, you can decelerate by shifting down gears. This will slow down the engine in a gradual manner and give you enough control and time to react.
  • Drive carefully when approaching or exiting a corner. Don’t accelerate when getting into a corner, and don’t slam on the brakes hard, as this may initiate a skid on a slippery road.
  • One of the main reasons why winter driving conditions can be challenging is that it’s extremely easy for the front wheels to lose traction when going over an icy patch. In such a scenario, you need to stop accelerating and brake gently if the car keeps sliding.
    On the other hand, if it’s the rear wheels that lose traction, you should stop accelerating while steering in the same direction the car is sliding.
  • Watch out for black ice, especially on overpasses, bridges, and roads below overpasses. It forms early in the morning and in the evening. Look for glossy patches on the road or for drivers in front swerving or struggling to maintain control of their vehicle.

Consider a Winter Driving Course

If you need to gain experience and you’re unsure how to drive in winter conditions, one way to gain experience is to take winter driving courses. This way, you can practice skidding without taking any real risks.

Bottom Line

Driving down Canada’s roads during the winter months can be a considerable challenge. Ice storms, snow-covered roads, and black ice patches all pose a threat to drivers’ safety. As such, safety should be your first concern when preparing for the winter weather, even if you’re experienced behind the wheel.

In this article, we shared a number of useful tips when winter driving safety in Canada is concerned, and we hope they’ll prove useful for all drivers out there. Drive safe!


How cold is too cold to drive?

Sub-zero temperatures can cause issues for your engine, so it’s always a good idea to turn it on and let it run idle for a couple of minutes to make sure it’s working properly. Notably, oil gets thick and difficult to circulate at minus 20 degrees Celsius, which is all the more reason to let the engine warm up.

Moreover, cold temperatures also cause your battery to deplete faster, and it can experience problems or be at risk of dying when the temperature drops below 32 degrees Celsius.

What is the number one cause of winter accidents?

The number one cause of winter accidents is ice and snow on the road. In those conditions, there’s less traction, and you should adapt your speed to the conditions of the road. Other winter driving tips include keeping an appropriate distance from other vehicles on the road and avoiding using cruise control in order to maintain complete control of the car.

How do you get better traction in the snow?

First of all, you’ll need winter tires because they’re designed with improved traction in mind. You should drive on tracks in the snow that have been cleared by other vehicles. Adding weight in the rear helps to balance out front-engine vehicles. Finally, you should use studded tires when driving on ice or through deep snow for extra traction.

Milica Milenkovic
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