Winter Is on Its Way to Challenge Ontario Motorists: Winter Driving Safety

silver car practicing winter driving safety

Canada is a country with four seasons, each offering its own appeal. Of course, the changes in weather with each season also present motorists with different challenges.

With summer in the rear-view mirror, drivers must now look down the road to winter. The weeks and months that lie ahead are bound to present a myriad of weather conditions that will make driving more hazardous. Rain, fog, sleet, frost, freezing rain and snow can turn even the shortest winter drive into an ordeal.

The RCMP stated that nearly 30 per cent of accidents reported to the National Collision Database in 2017 took place on wet, snowy or icy roads, with one-third occurring in November, December, January and February.

Transport Canada reports that snow and ice are more slippery at 0 C than at -20 C or below while black ice can be present on roads with temperatures between 4 C and -4 C.

Prepare Your Vehicle.

While you might not be ready for all the different weather conditions winter brings, your automobile should be. In severe weather conditions, a poorly maintained vehicle can literally leave you out in the cold.

This is typically the time of year when many motorists make the switch from all-season tires to snow tires. And for good reason. While they are not mandatory in Ontario (there is a $300 fine for failing to have snow tires in Quebec), there are some advantages to making the seasonal switch.

First of all, insurance companies offer a discount. More importantly, studies show that depending on the speed and the weather conditions, winter tires and proper tire pressure can reduce your braking distance by up to 25 per cent or two vehicle lengths compared to all-season tires.

But it is not only your tires that may need attention. According to the Government of Canada, drivers should examine:

  • Battery: Engines need a fully charged battery to start in cold weather. Clean the battery posts and check the charging system and belts. Replace weak batteries before they fail.
  • Lights: Ensure all lights work and are adjusted properly.
  • Brakes: Do a thorough check to ensure brakes are in good working condition.
  • Exhaust system: Check for leaks that could send deadly carbon monoxide into the vehicle.
  • Heating and cooling system: Check radiator hoses and drive belts for cracks and leaks. Ensure all fluid levels are where they should be.
  • Windshield wipers/washer fluid: Ensure wipers are in good condition and replace blades that streak. Use wipers and washer fluid designed for winter. Keep these fluids topped up.

Before setting out, ensure you have enough gasoline in the tank or, if you drive an electric vehicle, check how much charge is left.

Prepare Yourself.

Driving requires your complete attention, no matter the weather. However, ice, snow and poor visibility can present additional challenges that can test even the best driver. Patience is essential when taking to the roads in winter and that means slowing down when conditions dictate.

Distracted driving is not only dangerous, it is also costly with fines of up to $1,000. Put your cell phone and coffee away until you get where you are going.

Planning ahead can go a long way to ensuring you get where you are going safely. Click here to check real-time highway road conditions in your area. Monitor weather conditions including any changes that may occur before you return. In adverse weather, give yourself extra time to get to your destination.

Snow and slush can make changing lanes or passing other vehicles more of a challenge. It should be also noted that under a new Ontario law, you could face a fine ranging from $150 to $1,000 if you pass a working snow plow on the highway. “

It is now illegal to pass snow plows working side by side on Ontario highways,” OPP Sergeant Kerry Schmidt said in a news report. “Only pass a snow plow if the lane is completely clear of any part of the plow, including its blade.”

Driving after consuming alcohol or cannabis is a year-round problem but an increase in parties and gatherings brought on by the holiday season can present even more of a danger. Even small amounts of cannabis or alcohol can impair your ability to drive. Prescriptions and even some over-the-counter medication can also affect your driving skills. Remember, a ride-share or public transit costs much less than being charged with impaired driving.

Before Taking to the Road.

On a frigid winter day cleaning your vehicle of snow and ice may be low on your list of priorities. However, poor or reduced visibility can contribute to a collision. Ontario drivers can also be fined $110 under s. 74 (1) of the Highway Traffic Act for failing to clear the snow from their windows.

Also, if you leave snow on your car that blocks your visibility and you are involved in a collision, you could be found at fault.

No one plans to get involved in a car accident or to be stranded when they set out. You may not be able to predict the future but having an emergency kit can be invaluable in a difficult situation. The Government of Canada suggests storing the following in your car:

  • food that won't spoil, such as energy bars;
  • water in plastic bottles that won't break if frozen; 
  • a blanket, extra clothing and shoes;
  • a first aid kit with seatbelt cutter;
  • a small shovel, scraper and snowbrush;
  • a candle in a deep can and matches; 
  • a flashlight (remember to check the batteries);
  • a whistle in case you need to attract attention;
  • sand, salt or non-clumping cat litter;
  • antifreeze/windshield washer fluid;
  • a tow rope;
  • jumper cables;
  • a fire extinguisher; and
  • a warning light or road flares.

Before you set out, you should also ensure your cellphone is charged.

On the Journey.

Be well rested when getting behind the wheel and always wear your seat belt. Above all, be alert. If driving becomes too risky, find a safe place to pull over and wait until conditions improve.

The Canada Safety Council offers these tips:

  • Drive smoothly and slowly: Avoid abrupt turns or stops that can cause your vehicle to lose control and skid.
  • Don’t tailgate: Tailgating becomes more of a danger in winter weather since stopping takes much longer on snowy and icy roads than on dry pavement.
  • Brake before making turns: Brake slowly to reduce speed before entering turns. Once you have rounded the corner you can accelerate again.
  • Learn how to control skids: You should turn into the skid and accelerate. This transfers your vehicle’s weight from the front to the rear and often helps vehicles to regain control.
  • Lights on: Turn on your headlights to increase your visibility to other motorists.
  • Avoid cruise control: Do not use cruise control if conditions are snowy, icy or wet. If your car hydroplanes, it will try to accelerate and you may lose control of it.
  • Don’t “pump” the brakes: If your vehicle is equipped with an anti-lock braking system, apply constant pressure and let the system do its work.

Contact Us if You Have Been Injured in an Car Accident.

No matter the season, accidents happen every day but you can play a part in making roads safer and keeping yourself from unnecessary harm.

If you have been hurt in a an accident, the knowledgeable and dedicated personal injury lawyer team at Gluckstein Lawyers can help you. Contact us if have been involved in a winter driving accident so we can discuss your next steps. Your initial meeting with a car accident lawyer is free and without obligation on your part. We will never charge legal fees until your claim is settled.


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