Winter Driving: Let It Snow

From whiteouts to black ice, Travis Persaud prepares you for the wintry road ahead

Get ready for another season of battling snow, ice and frigid weather and facing the frustration and terror of driving bumper-to-bumper through whiteout conditions.

Although you can’t control the weather, you can control your preparedness for this winter driving season.

Emergency supplies

While you don’t have to turn your car into a Y2K bunker, you should carry an emergency kit with you at all times – especially during the winter. “A cellphone, booster cables, spare washer fluid and a flashlight,” suggests Perry Mason, shop foreman at H. J. Pfaff Audi in Newmarket, Ont. “We also suggest including an ice scraper; a mini fold-up shovel to dig yourself out of trouble; one small bag of kitty litter to improve traction on ice; and a container-style candle, which will warm the interior enough to be safe if you need to wait for help.”

Winter tires

In case you didn’t
get the memo, “all-season tires” don’t live up to their name. “Winter tires [not all seasons] are specifically designed to grip ice and channel snow, especially in sub-zero temperatures,” Mason says. And don’t skimp – use four winter tires. Despite what some friends may tell you –
in the name of saving money – you need four winter tires on your vehicle to truly improve your traction during snowy conditions. Using just two will create a different grip at each
end of your vehicle, potentially resulting in more slipping and sliding.

Useful technology

If you’re in the market for a new car this winter, consider technologies that will increase your safety during inclement weather. For example, the Infiniti Q50 Sport Sedan is able to “see” the car in front of the car in front of you.

“If you’re driving behind a large vehicle and the car in front of that vehicle suddenly brakes, the Infiniti Q50 will notify you before the vehicle directly in front of you even reacts,” explains Michael Kopke, senior manager, chief marketing manager, Infiniti Canada. “This extra warning is paramount when the roads are slippery and reaction times can mean metres saved in stopping distances.”

Other useful technology during the winter includes back-up sensors, which Infiniti takes one step further with its Back Up Collision Intervention system in their QX60 SUV.

“Sometimes the conditions are such that your vision can be impaired when you are backing out of a parking spot,” Kopke says. “The combination of sensors will alert the driver to crossing traffic through both visual and audible warnings. If the driver doesn’t react, the brakes will engage to help prevent an impact.”

Automakers, such as Volvo, have developed safety technology that’s good any time of the year but especially during the winter months. For example, its Pedestrian Detection System alerts you when a person walks near the vehicle and will apply the brakes if the driver doesn’t react in time. It helps during inclement weather and when snowbanks on the side of the road obstruct your full view of pedestrians entering an intersection.

And many new vehicles, including the all-new 2015 Hyundai Genesis, are incorporating some form of rear cross-traffic alerts. The system alerts you if another vehicle or object is coming down the street – often when it’s out of your neck craned view – when backing up. This is particularly helpful when reversing out of your driveway or any spot that might have snow piled around it.