Snow and Ice Cometh – Are You Ready?

Ok…this is hardly a news flash but time and time again people in Canada seem to be caught off guard by Old Man Winter and his partner in chaos Jack Frost. Now for those of you who are fans of winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, or even building snow men and snow forts, I’m sure you are eagerly awaiting copious amounts of the white stuff. Driving in it though isn’t what most people would define as a ‘good time’. Personally, I enjoy driving in slippery conditions. I like it so much that I teach others how to do it. Actually, I enjoy driving regardless of the conditions but not everyone is comfortable driving on ice and snow, nor does everyone have the skill to do so.

Lets start off with the basics.

  • Get some winter tires! They will in fact provide you with much more grip and improve your stopping distances. Winter tires provide up to 40% more grip than All-Season tires. Don’t get caught up in the false sense of security spewed by the marketing you see on TV.
  • If you have ABS, make sure it’s working and that you know what it’s limits are. Sure it can help the average driver stop faster on wet and dry roads but did you know that a vehicle with ABS can take up to 10x longer to stop on glare/black ice compared to asphalt? I bet your sales person didn’t tell you that.
  • Make sure your car has no less than a half tank of gas. If you do get stranded, you will need to run the engine periodically to keep warm. Also, the more air in your tank, the more the water vapour in that air can freeze which can lead to frozen fuel lines.
  • Ensure you pack some basic emergency equipment in your trunk, which may include a first-aid kit, blankets, a flashlight, candles (for warmth & light), a space blanket to help retain heat, winter grade washer fluid, extra gloves/mitts/hats, warm socks, a folding shovel, a bag of road salt or kitty litter (to throw under your tires for added grip).
  • Most importantly…take a winter driving course. If you’re in Ontario, contact me for more information.
Car Control School

As for a few tips:

  • SLOW DOWN!!! Regardless of how good your tires are or how many gadgets your car has to keep you from loosing control (ABS, traction control, stability control), they will only ‘assist’ you…not ‘save’ you. You simply can’t defy the laws of physics.
  • Beware of bridges as they often ice over quickly and before the actual road does.
  • If the road looks grey…it’s dry. If it looks wet, it’s either just wet or its black ice. My rule of thumb is that if the road looks wet, assume it’s black ice and drive accordingly. I would rather assume it’s ice and be proven wrong then the other way around.
  • Take off your winter boots and wear sensible driving shoes. Your car will warm up fast enough to keep your feet warm. However if you drive while wearing winter boots, you will likely get them hung up on the pedals or worse…apply the gas while going for the brake.
  • Oh…and if you see a bunch of cars spun out or crashed on the road ahead….don’t go there! In fact…if you know the roads are really bad…stay home. Wherever you want to go, for whatever reason, isn’t worth dying for.

If you really can’t remember what it’s like in winter,

here are three of my favorite ‘icy roads’ videos.





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