While we may have recently been greeted with Indian-summer-like temperatures, it won’t be long before our green grass and streets will be covered in snow, ice, slush, sand, salt and everything else that defines a southwestern Canadian winter. And while recent predictions about the severity of our pending winter may be mixed, being prepared for the worst of it can ensure your car remains in peak condition and you remain safe throughout.
One of the first steps to safe winter driving is ensuring that all aspects of your vehicle are winter ready. And while many think that may stop at getting your winter tires on, there is far more involved. CAA South Central Ontario (CAA SCO) is encouraging drivers to install winter tires sooner rather than later in order to be ready for the winter driving season. “A good time to switch from all-season tires to winter tires is when the temperature reaches 7°C or below and winter tires should be removed when the temperature reaches 7°C or higher,” said Ryan Peterson, manager automotive services, CAA SCO. “In the cold weather, all-season tires turn hard and lose their elasticity. This causes reduced grip and longer stopping distances,” added Peterson. Drivers should also check their tire pressure once a month. As the temperature drops so too does tire pressure. For every 5°C dip in the thermometer your tire pressure decreases 1 pound per square inch which results in reduced handling and control of your vehicle. Depending on your speed and the weather, the braking distance of winter tires can be up to 25 per cent shorter (or two vehicle lengths) compared to all-season tires. Winter tires consist of a rubber compound that keeps tires flexible in cold temperatures and a tread design that helps maintain a firm grip on snow and ice packed roads. Sets of four matching winter tires will help your vehicle maintain control and stability. CAA Insurance policyholders save 5% on their auto insurance premium when four designated winter tires are installed. CAA SCO is reminding members to download the CAA App and use CAA Service Tracker to track the status and estimated time of arrival of their road service call. More recently, car dealerships, mechanics and tire sales businesses have been addressing the issue of all-season tires, and some of the myths. Some have begun calling them three-season tires, as while they are functional in the winter, they do not provide the same kind of support, traction and
safety as winter-specific tires, specifically in areas that receive harsher winters. In order to help encourage drivers to put on winter tires rather than sticking with their ‘all’-seasons, most automotive insurance companies have included a discount on insurance packages for drivers. Most dealerships or places that will change over your tires also provide options for packages to completely winter-ready your car, including rust-proofing sprays and other techniques to help protect your car from the salt and sand that hits the roads. With the more recently harsh winters we’ve seen in the area, the importance of having both a back-up-plan and an emergency kit in the car have been realized by many. When the 2014 polar vortex swept through the county, it left Dufferin in a declared state of emergency. Several days saw a number of drivers stranded on the highways late at night and in the middle of a harsh snowstorm. The unfortunate fact of where we live means that this could potentially occur to drivers at any time. Emergency kits can help drivers who are stranded until help arrives, and should contain essential supplies as well as items that can provide comfort and safety for all in the vehicle. According to the OPS, recommended items include a snow/ice scraper, shovel, sand or other traction aid, tow rope or chain, booster cables,
road flares, flashlight, first aid kit, extra clothing and footwear, blankets, a candle, a small tin can, matches, non-perishable emergency food supplies and a fire extinguisher. Utilizing free resources to help ensure a driver is aware of the best winter driving practices and strategies is also beneficial. Last year, Young Drivers
of Canada released a new website designed specifically to provide information and safe driving tips for winter driving. The website was launched due to a perceived increased need for drivers to be more prepared in southern Ontario. “We have had an increased number of calls from people who are either new to the country or really never experienced the severity of winter driving prior to the last few years, especially with the ice storms,” explained Angelo DiCicco, General Manager of the GTA Young Drivers in an interview late last winter. “A lot of them are too far away for us to be able to actually help, which is why we came up with the online portion. It is pretty exciting. It allows people who are even too far away from a Young Driver’s Centre to refresh their skills.” The website includes a variety of things such as online courses, lists of tips, video clips, and a Winter Driving Quiz to test your winter driving IQ. “This is something ANY Canadian can benefit from, anywhere,” added Suzanne Vukosavljevic, Director of Public Relations for Young Drivers of Canada. “With the treacherous winter road conditions there is no better time to drive people to the winter driving lessons on the site. There are over 200 tips, videos and an online course to help drivers stay safe. They can definitely benefit from the online tutorial.” OPS agree that driver readiness and being prepared is essential to safe driving, and that starts right from the driveway. “Before leaving your driveway, make sure all windows are cleared off and defrosted,” said OPS. “As well, make sure all lights are cleared off so that you can be seen. The most important aspect of winter driving is to adjust your speed to match road conditions. When driving in stormy weather motorists accelerate, brake and steer smoothly.” It’s also important to remember that driving habits need to be changed accordingly. Abrupt accelerating, braking and going around corners can cause
skidding and sliding. Remembering to keep extra space to allow time for breaking in the case of the emergency is also important for avoiding accidents. For more information on safe winter driving, you can visit the CAA, MTO or Young Drivers Winter Driving websites. Written by Tabitha Wells