How to handle winter’s worst weather

Nasty winter weather can be dangerous and comes in a variety of different guises, depending on where you live. Be it heavy rain, fog, wind, mud slides, ice, snow, or some deadly combination, you need to be prepared for potentially treacherous driving conditions at this time of year.

Here are ten tips to help you stay safe on the road this winter.

Five things to do before you head out on a road trip:

• Check the weather forecast, road conditions and road closures on your route before heading out on a long trip. Good snow tires are an absolute must on many routes.

• Wear warm clothes that allow movement to steer and operate the foot pedals. Take a cell phone along (not to use while driving — it’s now against the law!) and bring water and non-perishable food supplies on longer trips. An emergency kit is also good to have along in the car.

• If you must drive in bad weather, make sure you start with a full tank of fuel and refuel when the tank drops below half full. If the car gets stuck, you’ll be able to keep the engine running, and have heat until help arrives.

• Good vision is very important, so fill the windshield-washer bottle with seasonal cleaner and carry extra in the trunk. Don’t forget to bring sunglasses — sun glare on snow can be hard on the eyes.

• A good night’s sleep — always drive well-rested. Excessive heat inside the car can also make you drowsy and take a break at the first signs of fatigue. And let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to arrive.

Five driving tips to avoid trouble on a slick road surface:

• Slow down and look farther ahead to anticipate potential problems and think about possible escape routes to avoid a collision. Check your mirrors regularly and be aware of what’s behind and in adjacent lanes, in case you need to make a lane change.

• Allow more time and distance to stop by increasing the normal following distance by up to six times. If you’re not sure if a road is slippery, do an advanced braking test (when safe to do so) to check stopping distance, before you reach the next stop sign.

• Make smooth, slow, deliberate and steady movements of the steering wheel on a slick surface. In your mind, you can picture a tennis ball that has to stay in a shallow bowl attached to the hood — if that helps.

• Braking should be done while the car is in a straight line (before a corner), which is a good general driving habit. If your car has antilock brakes it may make a noise and you may feel the pedal vibrate — it’s a normal reaction — continue pressing on that brake pedal.

Pack an emergency kit for winter driving.

• If your car does not have antilock brakes, the threshold braking method is best. With your heel on floor, squeeze down (curl your toes) on the brake pedal until you feel the wheels start to lock up, let up and squeeze again. Use rapid, yet not jerky, foot movements – practice makes perfect.

Buckle up and have a safe and enjoyable New Year!


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Photograph by: Les Bazso, The Province