Last winter was especially harrowing on the roads in Alberta. There was a lot of snow and ice, and it was very, very cold. Thousands of accidents left people without their vehicles for weeks on end, not to mention higher car insurance premiums.
We want to help keep you safe on the road, and by doing so you will also keep your car insurance payments low. Good winter driving habits actually means not doing a lot of the things you may be used to doing on the road. These slippery conditions driving behaviours can greatly increase your chance of losing control of your vehicle. Here’s what not to do when driving in the winter.
Do Not Be Distracted
First and foremost, driving in the winter requires a great deal of care and attention. It’s never a good idea to be distracted behind the wheel, and that fact takes on even more importance when the roads are bad.
In Alberta, you can be charged with distracted driving for carrying out any of the following tasks when operating a vehicle:
- Using a handheld cell phone
- Composing emails or text messages; the law applies even if you are stopped at a stop sign or red light
- Using any type of electronic equipment while the vehicle is in motion (including MP3 players, laptop computers, cameras and GPS units, among others)
- Reading, writing, or drawing while driving
- Grooming oneself while driving (including flossing, fixing hair, applying makeup, etc.)
Those found guilty of distracted driving will receive a $250 fine and three demerit points on their driving record.
Don’t Go Too Fast
It should be common sense to slow down when driving in the winter. Even on perfectly fine, dry roads, speeding increases the chances of an accident by a large margin. The Canada Safety Council says that speed is a factor in 12 per cent of all accidents, and 30 per cent of fatal accidents.
Even if you are a talented driver, speeding is a potentially deadly habit. And it doesn’t just mean driving over the posted speed limit. It also means driving too fast for the road conditions. Reaction times are exponentially reduced when you’re going too fast, which won’t allow you to react to unexpected circumstances in time. Accidents at high speeds also tend to result in much more damage to vehicles and worse injuries.
Don’t Hit the Brakes!
Keep it slow and steady when driving through snow and ice. Avoid hitting the brakes as much as possible. Even with today’s technologies such as anti-lock brakes and slide detectors, it’s best to not test your vehicle’s limits. Instead, rely on defensive driving techniques to maintain control of your car.
Anticipation is key when driving in the winter. Keep an eye out for shady and low areas, as these tend to accumulate black ice (which forms between the temperatures of +4 degrees Celsius and -4 degrees Celsius), and slow down well before you reach that part of the road. If you do happen to start to slide, take your foot off the accelerator, steer gently in the direction you want to go, and once you are headed the right way, apply firm, steady pressure on your brakes when your vehicle stabilizes to slow down.
Don’t Forget to Signal
Driving is a communal practice. Never forget there are other people on the road, and it’s your responsibility to let them know of your intentions. Signal well ahead of lane changes and turns to warn others to back off and leave you room. Also be sure to test your signals, headlights and parking lights often. It’s easy to miss when they are not working.
While you’re at it, increase the space between you and other vehicles on the road as well. In fact, it’s a good idea to double it. Following from two to four seconds behind is usually recommended, but in the winter it should be from eight to ten seconds. This gives you more time to react and slow down.
Don’t Go Out if You Don’t Have To
The best way to avoid a car accident in the winter is to stay home when the weather is bad. But if you must drive, make sure to allot plenty of extra time to get to your destination. Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle at all times, as well as additional clothing and blankets in the case of a break down.
In addition, driving at night in the winter is not advisable. The light from your headlights reflects back at you off of the snow, which reduces visibility. Snow on the road can also obscure the painted lines marking lanes, leaving you vulnerable to losing your way. Your car’s headlights are not able to follow curves, hills and dips in the road, making it very difficult to spot impending danger.
Winter Tires Are Highly Recommended
We highly recommend winter tires when driving in the winter. Winter tires have treads that actively eject water, ice and snow, helping the tire maintain better contact with the pavement. This results in a superior grip and more predictable, more controlled handling.
In addition to unique and high-performing tread patterns, winter tires are also made of softer, more pliable grades of rubber. As a result, they don’t become as rigid in sub-zero temperatures. This, in turn, helps them remain responsive during steering, manoeuvring and braking.
Auto Insurance Calgary: Trust Lane’s for Excellent Service at Competitive Rates
Lane’s Insurance is a leading Alberta-based brokerage, offering highly competitive rates, friendly and courteous service, and outstanding claims support. Lane’s is pleased to offer extensive informational resources to readers, and if you’re looking to save on your auto insurance, visit Lane’s online to get a fast, free quote.
As a brokerage, the professionals at Lane’s Insurance work for you, not the insurance companies. You can rest assured they’re always acting to protect your best interests and get you the most comprehensive coverage at the lowest possible rates.