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Driving In Snow

Just as you need to dress differently for winter, you also have to adjust your driving habits.

  • Be sure to wipe loose snow off the hood of your vehicle so that it doesn't blow onto your windshield and obstruct your vision while you drive.
  • Ensure that your headlights, taillights and licence plates are visible, and that your windows are completely defrosted before you hit the road.
  • If possible, switch to winter tires. Their deep treads are ideal for clearing away snow, giving you maximum traction and control.
  • Studded tires are a good choice on wet roads when the temperature is near zero. However, they don't outperform winter tires in freezing conditions.
  • Check the tire pressure often to help prevent a blowout. Your owner's manual or the tire's sidewall will indicate the proper pressure - usually between 30 and 33 lb for an average passenger car. Just don't forget that tires lose pressure at the rate of 1 lb for every 5° C drop in temperature.

Winter Driving Guidelines

With so much attention paid to winter driving preparations, it's easy to forget about the driving itself.

  • When you're on the road, remember to give yourself more time to reach your destination. Start your trip slowly, testing your braking and steering to 'get a feel' for the road.
  • Once you've reached a level of comfort, you can gradually increase your speed. The key is to maintain control of your vehicle at all times, even if that means driving under the posted speed limit.
  • Stay alert as you approach intersections. Scan the road for traction, such as sand or bare pavement, and always accelerate and decelerate gradually.
  • If you do find your vehicle skidding, remain calm and take your foot off the accelerator. Don't lock the brakes. Instead, brake steadily, look where you want to go and steer in that direction.
  • Try to avoid using cruise control on the highway during the winter. Icy sections on otherwise dry surfaces can cause your wheels to spin, compromising your control of the vehicle and putting you at risk of a collision.
  • Leave at least a 3-second following distance between your vehicle and the 1 in front of you. If the driver ahead of you suddenly brakes, you'll have the time and space needed to stop safely, ensuring that you and everyone on the road arrives at their destination safely.

Skid Tips

One of the most frightening, not to mention dangerous experiences for a driver is a skid, when reduced traction causes a loss of steering and braking control.

On average, each year in Saskatchewan more than 8,500 crashes occur when road or weather conditions are poor. These collisions result in an average of 1,530 injuries and 21 deaths annually.

Skids usually take place on slippery surfaces like water, snow and ice when drivers brake or accelerate too fast or turn too sharply.

Ways to prevent your vehicle from skidding are:

  • Scan the road to identify potential hazards. Be aware of what's in front of your vehicle and give yourself ample time to brake or avoid a trouble spot.
  • Know when and where to use cruise control. Never use cruise control on gravel or when roads are wet or slippery.
  • Maintain a safe following distance from the vehicle ahead of you. Under ideal road conditions, allow a 3-second gap between vehicles and you'll have the time and space needed for sudden stops. When conditions are poor, double the gap to at least 6 seconds.
  • Ensure your vehicle has appropriate tires. Winter tires are best on icy and snow-covered roads because they improve traction and help you maintain control of your vehicle.

Even the most skilled drivers can find themselves in a skid. If it happens to you, it's important to know what to do:

  • Remain calm. Apply steady pressure to the brakes, shifting to neutral and searching for traction. Your tires will often find better traction if you move out of the slippery tracks in your lane.
  • If your vehicle is equipped with an Antilock Braking System (ABS), it's less likely you'll skid when braking. ABS is designed to prevent skidding, even on slippery surfaces like snow and ice. ABS won't help you stop any faster, but you can apply the brakes and still have the ability to steer around vehicles or other hazards.
  • If your vehicle doesn't have ABS, apply steady pressure but don't allow the brakes to lock.
  • A common mistake is to look where you don't want to go, like into another vehicle or a pole. If you don't want to hit something then don't focus on it.
  • If you find yourself in a situation where the back of your car is skidding to 1 side, shift to neutral, look where you want to go and steer in that direction.

No matter how your vehicle is equipped, your best defense against a skid is still avoiding the situation altogether. Take a few simple precautions and you'll arrive at your destinations safely.

Heritage Insurance is your winter driving resource. Contact us for more information on coverage options we offer.

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