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11 Ways to Avoid Common Winter Driving Mistakes

11 Ways to Avoid Common Winter Driving Mistakes


Posted November 13, 2018

Ottawa has experienced its first snowfall of the 2018–2019 winter driving season. Not unexpectedly, winter driving results in more motor vehicle accidents than any other season. The reasons seem apparent — poor visibility in snowstorms and slippery road conditions. What is also obvious are the reasons why individual drivers are involved in these accidents. Here are 11 ways to avoid the common winter driving mistakes that cause people to be in accidents

Don’t Drive in Adverse Conditions

If the weather forecast calls for heavy snowfall and strong winds or there is already a storm raging outside, consider whether it really is necessary to get in your car and go out into the vortex. Can’t the trip to the grocery store or pharmacy wait until the weather improves? Can you work from home? Can you reschedule your appointment? If you get caught in dangerous driving conditions, get off the road. Go to a café or restaurant to wait out the storm. Get a motel room if the forecast is for a long bought of bad weather. If you can avoid driving in dangerous winter weather, then you should!

Adjust Your Speed

We all know that snowy and icy roads reduce our steering control and extend our stopping distances. Yet we see people hurtling down the highway at “summer” speeds even though the road surface is not bare asphalt. Reduce your speed in the winter and give yourself more time to get to your destination. Check your stopping capabilities by braking when you won’t affect any other drivers and adjust the distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you accordingly.

Clear the Snow Off of Your Car

A car that looks like a moving snow bank is a danger to its occupants and people in other cars. Snow blowing off of the hood can block the driver’s view ahead. Tiny “portals” in the snow covering side or rear windows limit the driver’s view of other traffic. And of course, blowing snow from one car can leave other drivers blinded. Go out and buy a good combination snow brush and ice scraper now and use it when needed.

Get Winter Tires

The myth of the all-season radial tires has been exposed. Don’t count on the tires that got you safely through the summer to do the same this winter. If you haven’t done it yet get some winter tires installed as soon as possible.

Don’t Rely On Winter Tires

Just because you put winter tires on your car don’t assume you can now drive as if it was a warm day in July. Winter tires are much much safer than all season tires but the roads are still slippery, and visibility can still be poor. So remember to follow the other advice in this article about how to avoid a winter collision.

Turn On Your Lights

Use your full lighting system at all times in the winter. If you can make “full on” the automatic setting for your car lights all the better. That way you won’t have to remember to turn them on in a snowstorm or when it gets dark earlier in the evening.

Don’t Wear Oversize Footwear

Big insulated boots with heavy rubber soles are great for walking in snow and over slippery surfaces. But they can interfere with safe driving. The extra-wide soles on heavy winter boots can easily catch a pedal. This can be a bigger problem in cars that have pedals close together. So have a more modest pair of footwear available for when you are driving and change into the big boots when you get to your destination.

Get New Wiper Blades

We have all tried to stretch the life of our wiper blades past their best before date. The ability to see clearly is critical to safe driving any time of year, but winter snow storms and flying slush from the road surface require top-notch wiper performance. Also always have some extra wiper fluid in the car in case your reservoir runs dry.

Have an Emergency Kit

Get a small gym bag and load it with the following items — a couple of foil “space” blankets, a few granola bars, flares, candles, lighter, matches, $20.00, a sheet with contact numbers for immediate family members, a sheet with any medical conditions you would want first responders to know about, some chemical hand warmers, and spare gloves and socks. In the event you get stuck in a traffic jam for several hours or in a snowbank on a remote road you can use the candles to provide some heat without running your engine while you dine on the granola bars and you wait for help.

Get Roadside Assistance

Check to see if the program that came with your new car has expired. If it has or you never had such a program look into getting one. Having easy access to qualified roadside assistance in a winter emergency can be a lifesaver.

Use Common Sense

These safety tips are well known to all of us, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of them as the winter driving season sets in. Common sense tells us to get winter tires, have wipers that actually wipe away the snow, clean off our car after a snowfall, reduce our speed, and increase the distance between cars. If every driver followed these simple rules, we would all have a safer time on our winter roads.

This blog post was written by Edward (Ted) Masters, a member of the Disability Insurance Claims and Personal Injury teams. He can be reached at 613-566-2064 or at

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