Chances are, you’re going to be on the road a lot over the holidays – whether it’s taking a long trip to visit family or driving around town to do your Christmas shopping. Depending on where you live, winter weather could mean that you’re doing some of that driving in winter conditions which could include snow, slush and ice (hopefully not all 3!). You can keep yourself safe on the roads over the holidays with these five winter driving tips.
- Winter tires. There’s a reason why almost two-thirds of Canadians use winter tires: they make driving in cold weather conditions safer. When temperatures drop, winter tires offer better traction and control to drivers. They can also shorten braking distances by almost 25 percent, which can help prevent collisions. As a bonus, in some provinces you could be eligible for a discount on your car insurance premium if you use winter tires, giving you a chance to save up to 5 percent.
- Replace your windshield wipers. These inexpensive and easy-to-install blades are the unsung heroes of safe winter driving. If you’ve become used to looking through a streaky, foggy windshield, or if you’ve noticed your wipers skidding across the glass when turned on, it’s time for a replacement. When working properly, your windshield wipers ensure that you have a clear view of the road, so that you can see what’s ahead of you and make good driving decisions. You might even want to invest in winter wiper blades that come in a rubber casing that keeps them free of ice and snow.
- Fill up your tank regularly. Travelling in a snowstorm is not the time that you want to risk driving on an almost-empty tank of gas, for more reasons than one. The first reason is practical: you don’t want to get stranded in freezing temperatures. Sitting in your car waiting for help, with no heat, is not the recipe for holiday joy. The second reason is scientific: when your gas tank is empty in the winter, any water that gets in your tank due to condensation can freeze, forming ice crystals that can wreak havoc on your fuel line.
- Make a plan to get home from holiday parties. If your holiday schedule includes parties with friends, family and colleagues, start making plans on how you’re going to get home from the festivities. Whether it’s taking turns as the designated driver with your spouse, budgeting extra money for taxis, or familiarizing yourself with your public transit options, make sure that you have a safe way home after you’ve had a few drinks. In addition to being unsafe, impaired driving is a crime that comes with penalties ranging from losing your license and having your car impounded, to spending time in jail and earning a criminal record.
- Give yourself extra time and space. The holidays can be a busy time, with lots of people to see and places to be, but don’t let yourself feel rushed that you’re not driving safely. Winter conditions can often mean that it will take you longer than normal to get around. You’ll also probably need to drive a little slower than usual, so leave your house with time to spare when you’re heading out. On the road, watch your speed and leave extra space between you and other drivers – even with your winter tires, you’ll likely need some extra braking room if you have to come to a sudden stop.
These tips can help you stay safe on the road, but remember that your best weapon against poor driving conditions is good judgement. Check the weather forecast before leaving the house, and if you’re concerned that the roads are too unsafe, cancel your plans and enjoy a quiet night at home instead.