Five Winter Driving Predicaments

Keep a cool head behind the wheel this winter!

Winter officially begins on December 21, but cold weather, ice and snow often descend upon us well before that date. In 2013, for example, there were major snowfalls as early as November 27 and 28 in Quebec and Ontario (from 10 to 25 cm depending on the region).Driving in these conditions can lead to various dangerous predicaments. Here are a few situations drivers face every year that can usually be avoided.

Running out of gas in a snow storm

It is always advisable to keep at least half a tank of gas in your car, especially during the winter months. This will ensure that you don’t run out of fuel should you be caught in a massive traffic jam due to a storm. You’ll also be happy to have a good reserve of fuel should you find yourself stuck in your car in an isolated area. You’ll be able to stay warm by running the engine for 10 minutes every hour, while being sure to open a window a little to prevent any build-up of carbon monoxide. So, fill up on gas regularly this winter!

Driving a mobile igloo

The day after a snow fall, you’re guaranteed to see at least a few mobile igloos on the roads. The drivers of these snow covered cars strain to see out of the small spots on their windshields that their wipers have managed to clear. Be advised: every year the police are on the lookout for mobile igloos! A driver whose license plate is hidden by snow can receive a $30-$85 fine*, while a snow-covered windshield can cost you $85-$300**. More importantly, it’s downright dangerous to drive when your view is obstructed. Spend a little time with a good snow brush and you can wipe that particular predicament off the list.

Waiting for the snow to fall before having your winter tires installed

Although snow tires are not required by law in Ontario, they have been mandatory in Quebec since 2008, where the Highway Safety Code specifies that all licensed taxis and passenger vehicles must be equipped with snow tires from December 15 to March 15. While some people get their snow tires installed ahead of time, others wait until the last minute. What if December 15 rolls around and you can’t find a garage to put on your snow tires? You might wind up driving illegally for a while and risk getting fined $200-$300. And what if the first snowstorm hits before December 15 and you have to use your car―will you really feel safe driving? It just makes more sense to plan your trip to the garage in November!

Running short on windshield washer fluid

Let’s say it’s a sunny winter day and the pavement is slushy. The car ahead of you happens to spray your windshield with a mixture of water, snow and abrasive material. You think, no sweat—a good spritz of your washer fluid will take care of the mess hindering your visibility…that is, unless, the reservoir is empty! If this happens, it’s best to play it safe and stop at the nearest service station. Of course, it’s an even better idea to keep a container of windshield washer fluid in your trunk at all times!

Zig-zagging down icy roads 

When it comes to drivers losing control, there’s nothing more dangerous than ice. But sometimes it’s hard to see ice on the road, especially when there are patches of it on a surface that appears dry. Be especially cautious when driving over a bridge or an overpass, and adapt your speed and driving style to the weather conditions.  If ever you feel like you are losing control of your vehicle, don’t attempt any sudden manoeuvres.  Keep your eyes focused on the direction you want your vehicle to go in, not where it seems to be taking you, and turn your steering wheel in that direction. If you want to do some sliding this winter, try a skating rink or a ski hill instead!

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