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Holiday Driving This Christmas

Holiday Driving This Christmas

December 17, 2018

By Blair Qualey

This is the time of year when many of us are sharing the holiday season with friends and family and it often involves a road trip through what can be challenging winter driving conditions.

There are some general rules of thumb in planning a road trip, but beyond anything else, rule number one is to check the weather forecast and current and anticipated road conditions before embarking on your trip. Helpful information can be found at the DriveBC website.

It’s also particularly important to be cautious and take extra time if you are driving a route in which there are rapid changes in elevation – because those can be especially unpredictable at this time of year. You may start a trip in the sunshine, but later face stretches of slush, ice, snow or compact snow.

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 March 31st, winter tire rules take effect and drivers are required to use winter tires on most BC highways.

Driving in the snow is all about friction and traction. Snow tires have a deeper tread to cut through the slush and snow, and snow tires are constructed from softer rubber to help with traction (especially below 7C). Lower temperatures in general affects the rubber in summer and all-season tires in a way that lowers traction. The rubber used for snow tires, on the other hand, stays soft and flexible in freezing temperatures in order to grip what’s underneath them. All season tires have reduced traction and stopping power below seven degrees Celsius, 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!

An important component of driving in the snow is also knowing how to use your vehicle and all its features. As an example, newer vehicle models come with anti-lock braking systems (ABS). ABS brakes are meant to keep your wheels from locking up so that you can maintain control of your vehicle. In a slippery situation, remember to never pump on ABS brakes – this could de-activate the system. Instead, keep your foot firmly on the brake pedal and the system will automatically pump the brakes.

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.

It’s always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared so travel with an emergency roadside kit which includes: flares, a flashlight and a variety of tools – along with water, a blanket and additional warm clothing that you may be thankful to have on hand in the event of an unfortunate circumstance. And keep your gas tank full (or your EV battery fully charged) in case you get stopped or stuck for an extended period of time and you need to keep warm.

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

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