Winter has arrived and is here to stay – likely longer than we’d hope. Staying safe while travelling in our extreme winter weather is important, and we have some tips to help you do just that. Even though the cold temperatures are already here, it’s not too late to take steps that will help keep you and your family safe on the road this winter.
If you can, put winter tires on your vehicle. Winter tires have a huge impact on vehicle safety and can be the difference between getting to your destination safely or ending up in the ditch with a tow truck coming to rescue your chilly self. They provide better traction in snow, slush, and ice and perform better as the temperature drops. Keep a tire pressure gauge in your vehicle and check your tires occasionally, as tire pressure decreases in colder weather.
It’s ideal to have a maintenance checkup before winter arrives, but if you didn’t get around to it there are some simple steps you can still take to be winter-ready. Get your oil changed and ensure that your brake lights, signal lights, and headlights are working. Remember to swap your wiper blades and washer fluid for the winter variety. It’s always smart to keep your gas tank topped up but especially so in winter. Weather can change quickly and getting caught in a blizzard with low fuel can be dangerous. Try to avoid your gas gauge getting below the halfway mark.
Every vehicle should have an emergency kit. This kit can be quite extensive including non-perishable food, a fire extinguisher, and a compass, but there are some essentials that you should not overlook. Jumper cables are a must as well as an ice scraper and snow brush. Traction mats and a shovel are a good idea, and fuel line antifreeze and extra washer fluid should be in your kit. Make sure you have a shovel, flashlight, extra batteries, and a first aid kit. It’s also smart to keep a couple of blankets in your vehicle.
It’s not fun but takes time to fully clear the snow and ice from the windows, lights, mirrors, hood, and roof of your vehicle. This will allow you to see clearly in all directions and ensure that drivers behind you don’t get caught in a small blizzard as the snow blows off your roof. Did you know that under the Traffic Safety Act drivers are required to completely clear their vehicle of snow, including their license plate? If any of your windows are obstructed and you’re unable to see or if your license plate isn’t visible, you can be issued a fine.
Staying safe on winter roads doesn’t have to be stressful, and while checking off a list of vehicle prep and supplies can help us feel ready, common sense is essential. No winter tire can make up for driving too fast for road conditions, and if you run out of fuel…well we know whose fault that is. Those of us who have lived on the Prairies for a long time often neglect to do one simple thing that can make all the difference in a winter emergency – dress for the weather. When heading out on the road, ensure you’re dressed properly with good outerwear and footwear, mitts and toques included. If you’re not wearing this winter gear, at least have it in your vehicle with you.
When heading out on the highway, one final tip is to bring your fully charged cell phone. Hopefully, you won’t need it for an emergency, but when you reach your destination use it to let someone (likely your mom or partner) know you’re safe and sound – especially if the weather is bad. A quick check-in is often appreciated!