Winter Driving Guide - Behind the Wheel

Winter Driving Techniques

Here are some techniques and tips for driving in winter weather.

  • Dress yourself accordingly for the weather conditions. Consider that if you had an accident, you might have to wait outside your car for an extended period of time.
  • Tell someone where you're going and when you should be arriving.
  • If the weather suddenly turns to whiteouts or freezing rain, slow down or pull off the road and wait for it to pass.
  • You should always turn your lights on. By doing so, you're using brighter lights than your daytime-running lights and you're also turning on your taillights, which makes you more visible.
  • If driving on the highways is making you nervous, find a secondary road.
  • Know what your car can and cannot do in different weather conditions. If you're nervous, practice in a large, empty parking lot.
  • Use your window defrosters to keep the snow and ice build-up at a minimum. If you have to stop to scrape the ice, do so slowly and carefully. This is when your extra windshield washer fluid in the trunk will come in handy.
  • Know whether your car is equipped with anti-lock brakes (ABS) or not. If you encounter an emergency and you need to stop quickly, use the appropriate braking method for the kind of brakes you have.
    • If you have anti-lock brakes: put your foot on the brakes and apply firm and continuous pressure. Focus on where you want the car to go and steer in that direction. Do not pump the brakes. Do not remove your foot until your car comes to a stop. Expect to hear noise and vibration as part of the normal ABS operation.
    • If you don't have anti-lock brakes: press down on the brake to the point just before the brakes lock. Release pressure and press again, repeating until you come to a complete stop. This is also referred to as "threshold braking".
  • Always check your mirrors -- be aware of the cars around you at all times and watch to make sure no one is approaching too quickly. This is a good habit to get into even during good driving conditions.
  • Remember that bridges freeze much faster than other parts of the road or highway.
  • When stopping, leave at least one car length between you and the car in front. When driving, you should be at least 5 seconds behind the car in front.
  • If you have to suddenly reduce your speed, turn on your emergency 4-way flashers and slow down, checking your mirrors frequently to ensure the car behind you is braking.
  • Don't use cruise-control in bad driving conditions. Winter driving requires you to be in control of the vehicle at all times.
  • Sharing the road with commercial trucks takes know-how. Avoid cutting in front of tractor-trailers or braking suddenly in front of them. Never pass a truck on the right-hand side, where the truck driver's blind spot is big. If you can't see the driver's face in the side mirror, he can't see you. Pass trucks on the left-hand side and do so quickly but safely to eliminate the amount of time you're in their blind spot.
  • Turn down the radio so you can hear what's going on. Watch and listen for emergency vehicles and move over to the right and slow down safely as they're approaching, regardless of how much room they have to get by.
  • Treat a non-working traffic light like a 4-way stop.
  • If you drive a manual transmission vehicle, consider starting off in second gear in slippery or snowy conditions since this decreases the tendency for the wheels to spin.

The information above is intended to provide general information only. Nothing is intended to provide legal or professional advice or to be relied on in any dispute, claim, action, demand or proceeding. CAA South Central Ontario does not accept liability for any damage or injury resulting from reliance on this information.

See also