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It’s that time of year when a change of season will soon translate into frost and snow for many parts of the province – and with it, some of the most challenging driving conditions of the year.

Above all else, the onus is on us, as drivers, to be prepared for a variety of driving conditions, especially if embarking on routes at higher elevations, by exercising caution, driving at a reasonable speed based on road and weather conditions and ensuring your vehicle is equipped with appropriate tires.

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 March 31st, winter tire rules take effect and drivers are required to use winter tires on most BC highways. Check the province’s online maps to find out which highways enforce this rule and be aware of roadside signs that indicate sections of the highway that require winter tires.

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). New car dealers can not only provide advice, but many are increasingly providing additional services such as storage of your summer tires, to make for an easier transition as well as carrying a wide variety of tire suppliers.

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 Fall and 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.

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. You can email him at [email protected].