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Tips for Dangerous Winter Driving Conditions

Snow on trees and road signs

Tying into one of our earlier blog posts, about winter safety kits for your vehicle, it’s important to think about driving for the conditions as well.   After 30+ years in the snow removal industry, we’ve become experts at recognizing and maneuvering in winter weather conditions.
Winter weather can result in dangerous driving conditions.  It’s crucial to respect these conditions and drive accordingly.  Whether it be snow or ice, your car will react differently, and you must take the appropriate precautions. Here are some helpful tips we’ve put together for all winter drivers.
street at night during snow fall
Icy Conditions:
These are perhaps the most dangerous as it can be difficult to tell if there is ice on the road.  We will list a few icy driving tips to be aware of:

  • Watch for “shine” or “glare” on the roads, black ice reflects more light than water alone.
  • Keep an eye on the temperature. Sometimes even driving to Newmarket from Markham can be enough of a temperature drop that the roads change from wet to icy.
  • Knowing the ground temperature is more important than the air temperature. Even if the air temperature is above 0 degrees Celsius, precipitation can still freeze on the roads if the ground temperature is below 0.
  • Leave a safe stopping distance. Icy conditions can increase stopping distance by 10 times.
  • Slow down! You can’t be in a rush.  If you’re going to be late for work just accept it and drive according to the conditions.  The difference in being 10 vs 20 minutes late, is not worth the risk to yourself and others.

cars driving in snow
Snowy Conditions:
Snowy conditions are arguably more common than icy conditions and require similar precautions as were noted above.  However, below is a list of some snow specific driving precautions to take.

  • Be wary of passing on two lane roads. When passing another vehicle, you must accelerate.  This acceleration makes it very easy for your vehicle to slide and lose control.  Its safer to wait until the road splits into two lanes to pass.
  • During heavy snow, small windrows (piles) of snow tend to build up in between lanes. When changing lanes through these snow piles, it is important to maintain your speed.  If you decelerate as you drive through these windrows, it becomes more likely that the snow can pull the front of your vehicle and cause the back end to slide.
  • Visibility can often be drastically reduced during a snowstorm. Ensure your lights are on so that you are visible to other vehicles, and travel at a safe speed based on your line of sight, or how far ahead of you is visible.
  • Be aware of where you park. Always remember that plows are out on the roads and they push the snow to the sides or the road.  If you park in an area that has not been plowed, ensure your vehicle is somewhere that it will not be buried when the street plows go by.

All these tips are important to keep in mind when driving in poor conditions, but the safest bet of all is to simply not drive!  Wait until the next day to go shopping, change your dinner reservations, whatever the case may be.  If it’s possible, it is always best to be safe and stay home during a storm.