Be prepared for safe winter driving

By Tyler J. Moffitt
The Safety Advocate

Winter is really here, and Christmas and New Year’s Eve are fast approaching.
This time of the year can be hazardous due to weather and road conditions, as well as the increase in motor vehicle traffic.
Bad driving habits such as speeding and aggressive driving are two of the major causes of motor vehicles crashes. We all need to slow down and drive to the weather and road conditions.
Tail-gating also is attributed to many crashes throughout Canada. Leave more space between your vehicle and the one ahead of you. The stopping distance on snowy roads is at least doubled or more—and even longer on icy roads.
Just last year in one part of Nova Scotia, some storm-struck travellers spent the night on the highway. More than 1,000 vehicles were stranded—some for up to 14 hours—with no food or water!
If you were stranded like these unfortunate travellers, would you be prepared?
It’s important to be prepared when travelling during the winter season due to the cold weather, and the possibility of snowstorms that can strike at any time.
An emergency can happen at anytime and anywhere! If you become stranded while travelling, having basic supplies in your vehicle will provide some comfort and help keep you safe.
You don’t have to look far for what your vehicle survival kit (bag) should include. Public Safety Canada, as well as Emergency Management Ontario, has some valuable information on their websites.
Some of the items you should include in your vehicle emergency survival kit (bag) are a shovel, antifreeze and windshield washer fluid, sand, salt or kitty litter for traction, traction mats, tow chain or rope, compass, cloth or roll of paper towels, and warning light or road flares.
Also be sure to have extra clothing and footwear, non-perishable food and water, an axe or hatchet, small tool kit, booster cables, ice scraper/brush, road maps, and matches and a “survival” candle in a deep can (to warm hands, heat a drink, or use as an emergency light).
Other items to include are a fire extinguisher, methyl hydrate (for fuel line and windshield de-icing), flashlight and batteries, first-aid kit with seatbelt cutter, blanket, whistle, list of contact numbers, and a working cell phone that has a fully-charged battery and is hands-free.
When making out-of-town trips, have a full tank of gas/diesel and be sure you have your oil level checked. Other fluids, such as transmission, brake, and steering, are other important fluids to have checked.
Before venturing out on any trips, I always phone a family member or friend in my town, as well as the people who I am travelling to see, to let them know that I am on my way and my expected arrival time.
Checking the local media and road authority by telephone, as well as their websites, for weather conditions and closures before leaving from home is another best practice.
As well, listen to the local radio station during your journey for updates.
Also be sure to check your windshield wiper reservoir tank and make sure it is full with the good stuff (rated for minus-49 C). I have had good luck with windshield fluid rated for minus-45 C, but I would never go higher than that!
Inspect the condition of your wiper blades for wear and cracking as they may be in need of replacement.
Give yourself extra time to safely prepare your vehicle before venturing out by clearing the entire vehicle of snow and ice. That includes the pocket at the base of the windshield where the wipers rest and collect snow and ice, which can block air intakes and hamper defrosting by keeping the glass cold.
Finally, are your tires’ treads in good condition, as well as at the correct tire pressure? Looking at my vehicle owner’s manual, it states to check tires once a month or more, as well as the spare.
My owner’s manual also states when it is time for new tires.
Take the time to check the condition of your vehicle’s tires and read your owner’s manual. It is recommended by the tire experts to think about having winter tires installed during the winter season (Quebec has made winter tires mandatory).
All-season tires apparently harden at 7 C and no longer flex grip the road surface properly.
Only winters tires—identified in Canada by a snowflake on the sidewall—are soft enough to flex properly in winter. And the treads are designed for traction and braking in snow, ice, or both.
Have a safe, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Tyler J. Moffitt is a volunteer firefighter and emergency responder, as well as a continuous improvement advocate.

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