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5 Good Practices to Ensure Safe Driving in Snow

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Sooner or later, Canadians who drive in wintertime come face-to-face with snow- and ice-covered roads and hazardous conditions, no matter where they are in the country. Adopting certain smart and sane habits will help you stay safe and in control of your car – and it starts with a pre-drive inspection of key elements of the vehicle.

Aline Albert, automotive maintenance and repair expert at OK Tire, gives you 5 Top Safety Tips to guide you safely through difficult winter conditions!
1. Know your vehicle
Like snowflakes, all vehicles are different, and you should properly know yours. Familiarize yourself with its braking system and learn what kind of traction your tires provide, so that you can know how the vehicle will behave on slippery or snow-covered roads. Consult the owner’s manual of your vehicle, confirm that it’s a rear-wheel, front-wheel or all-wheel drive powertrain, for example, and learn about the antilock braking system (ABS); you’ll understand better how your vehicle will react when it hits ice.

2. Clean off all the snow
Before pulling out into traffic, make sure to remove ALL the snow from your car. This includes not just all the windows and side-view mirrors, but also the headlamps and taillights, and the roof. This will prevent snow sliding down onto the windshield when you brake and cutting off visibility. Cleaning off your boots before climbing aboard, meanwhile, will prevent fogging up of the windows that can result from melting snow in the cabin.

3. Give yourself extra room  
Changing lanes when the road surface is heavily snowed under can be a white-knuckle experience. It helps to minimize the turning angle, as your tires are less likely to get caught up in the pile of snow accumulated between lanes. If the road surface is icy, leave at least 3-4 times more space than usual between your vehicle and surrounding traffic tor reduce the risk of collision.   
4. Don’t panic
In winter, it’s unavoidable - even the most experienced and most careful drivers can have their vehicles slip and slide. If you notice yours starting to slide, keep your eyes on the road and in the right direction, and follow the three Don’ts: Don’t suddenly turn the steering wheel, don’t accelerate abruptly, and don’t brake hard. The latter is a common reaction when drivers get panicky; better to keep your foot stable on the pedal, and chances are the vehicle will regain traction.
5. No spinning in the snow
Stuck in the snow? Don’t needlessly turn the wheels; this could bury them even deeper. Try to free the car by gently advancing and backing up in turn. To retake control of the steering, take your foot off the brake pedal, then try to slowly turn the wheel in the direction you want to go in while lightly pressing on the accelerator pedal. Lift your foot slightly off the pedal to give the tires a chance to grip the road before once again accelerating gently.

Of course, there are times when conditions on the road get so extreme that the wisest thing to do is just leave your vehicle at home, points out Aline Albert. Follow these five good basic practices, however, and you should make it safely through when you do venture out.

Make sure to consult our comprehensive winter driving guide!