Tips for driving in winter weather conditions

winter driving

Maximize your visibility

  • Take the time to scrape and clear your windows properly, both inside and out, before proceeding.
  • Clean all your mirrors, lights and windshield wipers.
  • Remove snow from the hood and roof so that it doesn’t blow or fall onto the windshield or rear window as you drive.
  • Snow in the outside air vents or off of your boots on the floor will vapourize as the cab air temperature increases and may reform as frost on the inside of the cold windshield.
  • Use the air conditioner, if equipped, as it will help to remove the moisture from the air.

Find and keep traction

  • Traction is what allows you to control your vehicle – starting, stopping or turning requires traction between your tires and the road.
  • Traction may be reduced from between 50 to 90 per cent in winter conditions than what you have in summer conditions. 
  • A winter tire’s rubber compound provides better traction in cold weather than all season tires, regardless of the tread.
  • Ensure that your tires have adequate tread depth and proper inflation to maximize traction capability.

Smoothness is everything

  • Always use light pressure on the accelerator, brakes and steering wheel. Sudden movements will break traction and cause wheel spin or a slide which can lead to loss of control.
  • When steering on slippery surfaces, it is the initial movement of the steering wheel that is most critical. Turn the wheel gently to start, then increase the motion once the turn is initiated.
  • Don’t over steer. Over rotating the wheel and then having to turn it back can cause a vital loss of traction. Only steer enough to follow your intended path.
  • Keep your vision high, look as far ahead as you can. Looking where you want to go will help to smooth out your steering. Keep both hands on the steering wheel for maximum control.
  • If you feel yourself start to skid, keep your eyes aimed to where you want to go, and steer towards that point.

Easy on the pedals

  • Accelerate gently. When accelerating, imagine that there is an egg between your shoe and the pedal. The first few fractions of an inch of pedal movement are critical. Once the vehicle is moving you can increase your acceleration rate.
  • If you do sense wheel spin (hear the tires spinning, feel the movement of the vehicle or notice the lack of response to the accelerator pedal) ease back on the accelerator until you feel the tires grip again.
  • Use the same “egg” technique with braking. Apply the brakes gently at first then increase the pressure as you begin to slow. You can brake solidly as long as the initial braking motion is slight.
  • Extend your following distances. Increase your normal summer following distance by three or four times in slippery conditions. This will allow you the time and space to brake gently. 
  • Reduce your speed for the conditions. In winter driving environments the posted speed limit might be way too fast!

One at a time

  • In low traction conditions try to separate your driving actions – steering, braking and accelerating into one maneuver at a time. Try not to brake and steer or accelerate and steer at the same time.
  • All the available traction should be used for the one maneuver so you don’t risk exceeding the tire’s ultimate traction limit.
  • Brake before you enter a corner or steer through a corner at a constant speed and then accelerate once you have straightened out.

Always be aware and alert of your driving environment and adjust your driving to match the conditions.