Three tips for winter driving preparedness


It’s hard to believe that Christmas is only just about a month away. Fall officially ends on Dec. 20, with the winter solace being December 21.

Sadly, an average of 34 people are killed and 7,110 injured in 4,740 crashes every December on B.C. roads, making it one of the highest months of the year for crashes.

Here are three important things to be mindful of before you take to the roads this holiday season.

1. Get ahead of winter driving starting with tire safety

According to BCAA’s 2013 Winter Driving Survey, only half of the B.C. drivers polled planned to use winter tires. Of those who did not plan to use winter tires, 51 per cent felt that all-season tires were safe enough to get them through winter.

There is a big misconception that winter tires are only meant for snow. In fact, when the temperature drops below 7 C, all-season tires start losing their grip levels dramatically with the rubber becoming rigid and brittle.

Winter tires are designed to be the safest tire choice when it comes to all other winter conditions, including freezing rain, rain, slush, ice, and of course, snow.

For your safety and the safety of other drivers, ICBC recommends using winter tires if you live in an area where you would normally expect a lot of snow or if you'll be travelling somewhere with these conditions.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure can designate snow tires to be required on certain roads and highways and if you are driving without them, police can ticket you and make you turn back.

2. Manage your journey and be prepared for an emergency

  • If you are travelling out of town, before you begin your trip, check the TV, radio and/or websites like drivebc.ca to ensure weather and road conditions on your planned route are not too severe.
  • Give yourself extra travel time to get to your destination. As much as possible, plan to use main roads that are generally well-maintained and cleared first when snow hits.
  • Let someone know your where you are headed, your planned route and expected time of arrival.
  • Consider buying a vehicle phone charger in case you find yourself in an emergency situation and without battery power. At least you can still call for help.
  • Ensure you have a full tank of fuel when you set off, so you can run the engine for heat in the event you get stranded.

3. Do a complete vehicle check before the snow hits

  • Check and change your wiper blades if necessary. Old wiper blades can dry out and crack in the summer, dramatically impeding visibility when they have to work overtime to wipe off rain, hail, sleet and snow.
  • Check your engine oil levels and change if necessary. Consult your service advisor or owner’s manual for the appropriate winter oil weights if applicable.
  • As the temperature drops, so does the power output of your battery. Consider taking your car to your dealership to get the battery tested and replaced if necessary. As a general rule, most car batteries have an average lifespan of four years under normal conditions.
  • Buy a tire pressure gauge and check your tire pressure as tires every couple of weeks. Tires can deflate quickly in the cold temperatures and overinflated tires can reduce gripping.
  • Ensure your engine’s cooling system has the appropriate antifreeze for the colder temperatures.
  • Top up your windshield washer reservoir regularly with winter-grade washer fluid that won’t freeze when the mercury dips below the freezing mark.
  • Ensure all lights are clean and in working order.
  • Keep your gas tank full to prevent freezing in extreme temperatures and pack an emergency kit with non-perishable food items and some water in case you get stranded. A warm blanket and a small collapsible shovel are also essentials.
  • If you don’t have keyless entry, spray lock lubricant into your key holes regularly to prevent the door locks from freezing.

About the Author

Andrew Ling's picture

Andrew Ling is a car and technology nut. His baby pictures nearly all comprise of him holding a toy car in one hand, and an orange spoon in the other. It also explains his prolific love for food and food photography.

In addition to being a featured contributor to OpenRoad's blog, he is also the Automotive Editor for Surrey604.com, and a Contributing Editor to DrivenWheels.com.

Instagram: andrew_ling
Twitter: @andrew_ling

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