See and Be Seen: Winter Driving

After the snowstorm Windsor had December 14, Nancy Cain, of AAA Michigan, told WDET‘s Pat Batcheller that AAA had “lots of calls for help where people actually hadn’t scraped off their front windshield.” You’re surely telling yourself you’d never do anything that dopey, but there are likely many other winter driving precautions for which you may not have thought to prepare. A reminder might be in order, especially in light of the ice storm one week ago which hit the eastern U.S. and Canada. (Frustratingly, thousands of unfortunate folks in both countries still have no power.)

You, Your Vehicle, and Winter DrivingCAA has partnered with Transport Canada and released a brochure called You, Your Vehicle and Winter Driving. Download your free copy here. Winter Survival Guide

Be Car Care Aware also provides a consumer Winter Survival Guide full of winter driving and car care tips. Download it here.

WPL’s automobile-related databases can be accessed by visiting, click on eResources, then click on Databases. Once there, under SPECIAL INTEREST, Automotive, click on Auto Repair Reference Centre (you will then be redirected to a page of services and Auto Repair Reference Centre is at the very bottom) or Chilton

auto repair reference centreFrom Auto Repair Reference Centre, you can search for information on your particular vehicle, or Auto IQ, Care & Repair Tips (particularly the sections Driving on Snow and Ice, Very Useful Items and Winter Wiper Maintenance) and Troubleshooting.

From the chilton libraryChilton Library you can also search for information on your particular vehicle, bulletins/recalls, maintenance, and repair. For further information chilton guideon Chilton, check out Chilton Library User Guide in pdf format.

You can also search most of the WPL databases all at once by visiting, clicking on eResources, then clicking on Databases. Then click on the words search most of them in the first sentence under the word DATABASES. The search term “winter driving” yields 333 of the most relevant results from sources such as Canadian Newsstand Major Dailies, Canadian Periodical Index, Canadian Reference Centre, General Reference Centre Gold, Literature Resource Centre, MasterFILE Premier, The Canadian Encyclopedia, and World Book Online Info Finder.

Winter driving precautions include making sure your hood, roof, front, back, and side windows are cleared of snow, ice, frost and fog. Be sure your brake lights and head lights are not only cleared of snow but in working condition. Remember that you want to see and be seen.

The best strategy of course is to avoid driving altogether in bad weather conditions. If you absolutely must drive, check weather and travel conditions before heading out. Give yourself extra time for travel and, if weather is bad, wait for conditions to improve.

Always tell someone where you are going, when you expect to arrive, and the route you plan to take (stick to main roads which are always ploughed first).

Above all, you should always wear your seatbelt and slow down while driving. Slowing down is especially important on bridges and overpasses which will freeze up first, which fact may not be immediately apparent until you begin slipping and sliding while trying to cross them. Watch for black ice at temperatures between +4°c and -4°c, where the road surface ahead looks black and shiny. Black ice is often found on bridges and overpasses, as well as shaded areas of the roadway, long after the sun has come out.

1950s car in snowALWAYS SIGNAL
A common dangerous mistake, in addition to failure to slow down, is failure to signal. While signalling lane changes seems to have become a whimsically applied on-again off-again habit with many drivers, signalling lane changes is always important, especially in winter weather. When driving on a snow-covered road there may be more snow/slush between lanes than in the lane, making changing lanes more difficult.

At this time of year, it’s more important than ever to put down your cell phone, don’t talk to passengers in the back seat, be ready to adjust your speed, look well ahead, pay attention, and be prepared for the unexpected.

It is important to keep your phone handy should it be needed to call in case of emergencies but do not use it to text or phone someone while driving. Drivers engaged in text messaging on a cell phone are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or near crash event compared with non-distracted drivers.

Ideally, before winter weather hits, you will want to ensure your battery is good and your tank is full. This isn’t a time of year you want to run out of gas. Keeping the tank full can help to avoid fuel line freeze-up where moisture can get in your gas tank and cause trouble. You’ll also be glad your tank is full should you become unexpectedly caught in a traffic jam or stranded in cold weather temperatures.

Should your vehicle become stuck or run out of gas it is recommended you get out of the line of traffic and make sure your vehicle is out of the roadway and off to the side as best you can. Once you are out of the line of traffic to the best of your ability, get back in your car and do not step out of your vehicle into the line of traffic. If you must, get out from the passenger side, to reduce the risk of being hit by other drivers. If visibility is poor, put on your emergency flashers.

Once you’re back in your car and awaiting a friend, family member, CAA, or, in the worst case, police or ambulance, you’ll be glad you’ve prepared a winter survival kit. This should include a cell phone, a cell phone charger, an ice scraper & brush, boots, gloves, hat, a blanket, snacks for energy, extra windshield washer fluid, a bag of sand or kitty litter, a hardcopy local map (not just a GPS), waterproof matches, a “survival” candle in a deep can, a first aid kit, a flashlight & batteries, a small shovel, flares or reflective triangles and jumper cables, even if you yourself don’t know how to use them.

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