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Safe Winter Driving Tips – Be Prepared!

Though it may feel like spring is just around the corner, last week’s snowfall in the Lower Mainland and the subsequent accidents on BC highways come as a stark reminder that winter road conditions are still here.

Winter is often a challenging time of year for drivers due to the unexpected road conditions caused by cold weather, rain and snow.

The onus is on us, as drivers, to be prepared for a variety of driving conditions, especially if embarking on routes at higher elevations. Drivers must remember to exercise caution, drive at a reasonable speed based on road and weather conditions, and ensure your vehicle is equipped with appropriate tires. And remember, you should only be driving for essential reasons right now.

It’s particularly important to be cautious and take extra time if you are driving a route that involves mountain passes – because those can be especially unpredictable during the winter months. You may start a trip in the sunshine, but later face stretches of slush, ice, snow or compact snow. Before embarking on a trip, motorists should visit to access the latest road conditions and view the road cameras covering major highway routes.

Having the proper tires cannot be emphasized enough. Equip your vehicle with proper snow tires (snowflake symbol) or winter/all season tires (M&S symbol). Switching out of your summer tires for something more weather-appropriate is not only logical and safe, but it’s mandatory in some parts of the province. From October 1st through April 30, winter tire rules take effect and drivers are required to use winter tires on most BC highways.

Driving in the snow is a simple science – it’s all about friction and traction. Snow tires have a deeper tread to cut through the slush and snow, and are constructed from softer rubber to help with traction. All season tires have reduced traction and stopping power and do not offer reliable braking or cornering on ice or cold weather conditions.

Compared to M+S tires, snow tires offer superior braking and cornering performance on wet and rough ice, soft and hard-packed snow, along with slush. It’s worth the investment for snow tires!

In general, winter driving requires a lot more concentration and care as well – use slow motions, refrain from braking quickly, and use a very soft foot on the accelerator pedal. Driving slower is one of the smartest things you can do. And in rainy or snow weather with lower visibility, use your headlights to be seen by both the vehicles in front and behind of you.

Drivers who don’t slow down or adjust for conditions are always a top concern for others who are sharing the road. Both stopping and turning are actions that take can lot longer, so keep a longer following distance and remember to slow down. If you’re driving a new car with electronic traction and stability control features, ensure they are all turned on in the winter or set to snow mode.

An important reminder for every driver is having an emergency roadside kit which includes flares, a flashlight and a variety of tools – along with water and additional warm clothing and footwear that you may be thankful to have on hand in the event of an unfortunate circumstance.

If you’re in the market for winter car kit essentials, visit your local new car dealer – they’ll make sure you have what you need to shift into winter safely, before hitting the roads.

Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC. Email him at [email protected].