Besides bundling up and outfitting their homes for the winter season, Canadian drivers are well versed in getting around in even the worst weather conditions.
But even the most careful Canadian drivers can be taken by surprise by winter driving conditions. To help keep yourself and your loved ones safe when the snow starts to pile up, there are a few behind-the-wheel mistakes that you should avoid whenever possible.
Here are five common mistakes not to make when driving in snow conditions:
1. Driving too fast
However obvious it may seem, driving too fast is one of the more common mistakes drivers make when faced with snowy conditions. Many drivers falsely assume that it’s safe to drive the speed limit regardless of road conditions. This is simply not true.
Even the slightest loss of traction can cause a driver to lose control of their vehicle. Whether ice or hydroplaning through wet snow, there are a variety of reasons for a loss of traction. But one remedy helps all traction problems: slowing down.
Tip: if you slow down significantly or come to a stop, put on your four-ways to warn other drivers approaching.
2. Driving in your winter gear
While the weather outside might be frightful, it’s never a good idea to get behind the wheel of a car while wearing any type of encumbering garment. So before strapping in, take off your bulky down coat or flowing scarf.
What’s more, it’s also wise to keep an extra pair of shoes in the car to swap out with heavy winter boots. Removing these items frees up your body for fluid movement and eliminates the need to remove any garments once you’re on the road.
3. Not brushing off your car
There is nothing more irritating (and potentially dangerous) than driving behind a car still covered in fresh snow. Whether leaving a trail of obstructing white powder in its wake, or releasing huge chunks of snow and ice on unsuspecting drivers behind, failing to brush your car off before hitting the road is a big no-no. Removing snow and ice from your car also helps you with visibility, so be sure to brush off your vehicle before getting behind the wheel.
4. Using cruise control
Cruise control is great for those long haul journeys up the cottage every summer, but this feature is not designed for driving in snow. Cruise control, which automatically accelerates and decelerates to maintain a preset speed, can actually malfunction when faced with a variety of snow-caused conditions.
For example, if you suddenly hit a patch of ice and lose traction, cruise control adapts by accelerating to keep up, which could put you in further danger. There is also a certain degree of reaction time required to cancel the feature, including abrupt braking.
5. Not assessing road conditions
If poor weather is expected, exercise an extra degree of caution once on the road. Never leave anything to chance. If you see a sudden sheen on the road or if you suddenly lose visibility to a whiteout, slow down or stop until conditions improve. Do not be afraid to put on your four-way lights to warn other drivers of your change in pace. Since bridges tend to ice up, be extra careful when you cross them.
All-in-all, if the radio is warning of an incoming winter storm and there is no rush to go anywhere, the safest option – and the most convenient – is to simply stay home!