Driving in winter weather - snow, ice, wet and cold - creates a great challenge for vehicles and drivers.

To prepare for going out in the snowy weather it is best to keep in mind the following according to Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS): 

  • Plan the drive-in advance.
  • Avoid driving when fatigued.
  • Contact the provincial "Road Reports" like 511 Alberta or listen to radio or television reports to get updates regarding road conditions in the region to which you are going.
  • Wherever possible, postpone the trip when the weather is bad.
  • Check weather conditions for your travel route (and time) before you begin driving.
  • Plan the arrival time at a destination by considering any delays due to slower traffic, reduced visibility, roadblocks, abandoned automobiles, collisions, etc.
  • Inform someone of the route and planned arrival time.
  • Choose warm and comfortable clothing. If there is a need to remove outdoor clothing later while driving, STOP the vehicle in a safe spot.
  • Warm up the vehicle BEFORE driving off. It reduces moisture condensing on the inside of the windows. If the windows are fogging on the inside, use the air conditioner (it is a dehumidifier as well). 
  • NEVER warm up the vehicle in a closed garage.
  • Remove snow and ice from the vehicle. It helps to see and, equally important, to be seen.
  • Wear sunglasses on bright, sunny days.
  • Bring a cell phone, but do not leave it in the vehicle as the battery will freeze.

And when you are on the road and headed towards your destination CCOHS recommends the following: 

  • Buckle up before starting to drive. Keep the seat belt buckled at all times.
  • SLOW DOWN! - posted speed limits are for ideal travel conditions. Driving at reduced speeds is the best precautionary measure against any misfortune while driving on slippery roads. "Black ice" is invisible.
  • Be alert. Black ice will make a road look like shiny new asphalt. The pavement should look grey-white in winter.
  • Do not use cruise control. Winter driving requires the driver to be in full control at all times.
  • Reduce speed while approaching intersections covered with ice or snow.
  • Allow for extra travelling time or delay a trip if the weather is inclement.
  • Drive with low-beam headlights on. Not only are they brighter than daytime running lights but turning them on also activates the taillights. This lighting makes the vehicle more visible.
  • Lengthen the distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead. Stopping distance on an icy road is double that of stopping on a dry one. For example, from around 45 metres (140 ft) at the speed of 60 km/h, to 80 metres (over 260 ft) on an icy road surface.
  • Stay in the right-hand lane except when passing and use turn signals when changing lanes.
  • Steer with smooth and precise movements. Changing lanes too quickly and jerky steering while braking or accelerating can cause skidding.
  • Be aware and slow down when approaching a bridge. Steel and concrete bridges are likely to be icy even when there is no ice on the ground surface, (because bridges over open air cool down faster than roads, which tend to be insulated somewhat by solid ground.)
  • Consider getting off the road before getting stranded if the weather is worsening.
  • Be patient and pass other cars only when it is safe.
  • Keep a safe distance back from snowplows, and trucks applying salt, sand or anti-icing agents. 
  • Never pass a snowplow due to the whiteout conditions and ridge of snow created by the plow.

For more safe driving tips visit the CCOHS website.

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