Winter driving 101: Tips for tackling snowy roads

Icy, snowy roads are something we have to deal with across the country, but there are easy ways you can increase your safety and car control.

Darryl Croft, automotive maintenance expert at OK Tire, offers his top bad weather driving tips:

1. Know your vehicle. Every vehicle is different, so learning about your car’s braking system and tire traction can help you understand how it will perform in slippery or snowy driving conditions. When reading your car’s manual look for words such as rear wheel, front wheel, or four-wheel drive, as well as anti-lock braking system, to better understand how your vehicle will respond to a skid.

2. Snow removal is essential. Before getting in your car, it’s essential that you clear snow and ice from everything — windows, mirrors, lights, roof, and even your boots. This will help prevent unremoved snow from sliding forward and blocking visibility during braking or melting and fogging up windows.

3. Mind the gap. Anyone who has driven in winter knows changing lanes in snowy conditions can be challenging. Minimizing your steering angle when merging can help you avoid the ridge of snow that may have built up between lanes from pulling your tires. In slippery conditions, tripling or quadrupling your gap between vehicles can also help you avoid a nasty collision.

4. Don’t panic. Even careful and experienced drivers can skid. When you find yourself skidding, keep eyes on the road and where you want to go. Don’t make sudden, jerking movements of the wheel, accelerator or brake (common things to do when panicking) and keep feet steady.

5. Don’t spin out. If you find yourself stuck, don’t spin your wheels as this can dig you deeper into the snow. Try edging yourself free by gently rocking your car back and forth by shifting into forward and reverse. To regain steering control, take your foot off the brake and focus on gently steering towards the direction you want to go. Ease off the gas pedal and wait for the wheels to grip the road before carefully accelerating.

6. Beware of all-season tires. They may sound like a huge cost-saver, but all-season tires are not designed for rough winter conditions. Winter tires work best when temperatures dip below 7°C and offer the best traction, handling, and braking — especially when it comes to shorter braking distances.

Croft points out that if driving conditions are really bad, avoiding driving altogether is your safest bet. A regular pre-winter inspection by an auto service provider can also ensure your vehicle can tackle the roads safely.