Winter Driving Tips (Part 2)
February 06 2018, Mike Lavigne
Winter Road Hazards
After a snowfall in the winter the busiest highways and roads have the top priority for snow removal. These roads will have snowplows, sander and graders working on them long before secondary roads, which means that these secondary roads may have a layer of packed snow or ice. If there is only a light snowfall then sanding trucks will be out spreading a mixture of sand/gravel and salt. The sand provides traction and the salt is used to melt the snow/ice and it keeps the sand from clumping. Stay well back of sanding trucks on the road to prevent possible damage to your windshield from flying rock chips.
During the winter a strip of snow, ice and/or slush can develop between the lanes of traffic on a road. This is quite often referred to as the “devil’s strip”. Drivers need to exercise extra caution when changing lanes or passing. As you move across the “devil’s strip” the traction of your vehicle’s wheels will change in unexpected ways, which may cause a loss of control.
During winter months another major hazard is reduced visibility. Visibility can be reduced due to heavy snowfall or blowing snow, which can cause white-out conditions. When visibility is reduced, slow down, put on your four-way hazard lights and exit the road when it is safe to do so.
”Black ice” refers to a layer of transparent ice that forms on the road. As your vehicle crosses a patch of black ice it may start to slide out of control. Remember that ramps, bridges and overpasses cool more quickly than other road surfaces so they can develop black ice more readily when the rest of the road is dry and bare. If you find yourself on black ice DO NOT press on the break to slow down. To reduce speed change to a lower gear. You should not accelerate while on black ice as this may cause your vehicle to skid.
A “Slush Grab” can occur if your tires move over onto the shoulder of the road or during a lane change. The traction of your tires will be different in the slush than on the bare road surface. If this happens to you while you are driving, do not overreact, as this could cause you to spin out of control. You need to correct slowly and gradually. Hold the steering wheel steady, ease off the accelerator and slowly drift the vehicle back to the proper lane. The wheel in the slush has more resistance and the vehicle will want to tend to go in that direction.
Winter Safety Kit for the Vehicle
During the winter months you should make a habit of refuelling your vehicle at the half-tank level so that the engine will keep warm. You also want to make sure you have plenty of fuel just in case you are forced to spend and extended period of time at the side of the road waiting for assistance to arrive. If you are stranded at the side of the road there are some things you should do:
Keep snow from accumulating at the exhaust pipe on your vehicle, to prevent carbon
monoxide poisoning. Depending on your fuel level you may not want to keep the vehicle running, instead only starting it periodically to warm the vehicle and its occupants.
It is a good idea to have a few extra safety items in your vehicle during the winter.
- Beeswax candle in a tin with matches
- Booster cables
- Granola bars or chocolate for energy
- Extra mittens, scarves, toques and boots if you are going on a long trip
- Extra windshield fluid
Remember: slow down and leave a lot of space between you and the vehicle in front of you.