Have a happy (and safe) holiday season with these 5 driving tips
The holidays are the perfect time for visiting loved ones - near and far. With presents wrapped and baked goods in tow, you're all set to make the journey to visit a loved one, but the freezing weather and long distances can present certain safety risks that you should consider before embarking on your trip. Follow these five tips to maximize holiday driving happiness and avoid coal-in-the-stocking misery.
1) Eggnog and engines don’t mix
Our first tip is a given – not that you should drink and drive any other time of year, but certainly don’t use the holidays as an excuse.
Ontario police and the Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere (R.I.D.E.) program will be out on the roads in full force to combat drunk driving this year. If you’re attending a holiday party and plan to indulge in some libations, remember not to drive. Stay the night or plan a safe alternative to get home, like a cab, Uber, a designated driver in your group, or public transit. You can also check if Operation Red Nose is in your area and can get you home safe.
2) Check your vehicle maintenance list twice
One of the most common problems travellers face during the holidays are vehicle breakdowns. Whether it’s a frozen-over windshield, slippery roads or a dead battery, getting stuck during a Canadian winter is the last thing you want. To prevent some of these bothers, take your vehicle in for a maintenance check, paying particular attention to your tires, which need to be ready for long drives on icy roads. For a refresher on some seasonal vehicle maintenance items, visit our checklist here.
Organize an emergency kit to keep in the car with a first aid kit, jumper cables, snow brush and flashlight. It never hurts to bring an ice-scraper and traction board for snowy conditions. It always helps to carry extra warm clothes, snacks and an emergency blanket to keep you safe from the cold.
3) Plan ahead for your long-distance getaway
If you’re planning to drive long distances this holiday season, make sure you’re fully prepared. The colder months can bring on the unexpected, so take some time to prepare yourself for anything the season might throw at you.
First, ensure you stock your sleep time, by getting at least seven hours of sleep before your big trip. Try to avoid driving between 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm, when the body’s natural temperature is lower and drivers are generally drowsier.
Avoid getting stranded by reading up on the road and snow conditions before you leave through Ontario 511, or by following the Ontario Provincial Police’s Twitter. You should also be aware of all detour routes on your trip itinerary, by visiting the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s website. You should also periodically tune in to traffic radio stations like 680 News, and always carry a list of emergency numbers to call in case the worst happens.
4) Don’t let thieves run your holiday season
‘Tis the season of giving – and stealing, apparently. According to University of Missouri criminology professor Janet Lauritsen, robberies occur on average 22 per cent more frequently in December.
The most tried and true way to prevent car theft is to not attract attention to car. This means removing all valuables, bags and electronics from your car, or keeping them very well-hidden. Even small things like loose change, hood ornaments or your GPS system are targets like you wouldn’t believe.
Lock your doors and windows, and consider installing anti-theft security systems, such as tinted windows and loud alarms. Also, be alert for signs of car thieves. If you’re concerned, report your suspicions to the police.
5) When the weather outside is frightful
Winter can bring out the worst driving conditions, from icy roads to full blown white-outs. Here’s what you can do when driving in unsafe conditions.
If you find yourself driving in reduced visibility, slow down gradually and drive at a speed that suits the conditions. Ensure you use low-beam headlights, as high beams will bounce light off the ice particles, further hampering your ability to see what’s around you. Keep all your windows and mirrors clean and always stay alert.
When the roads inevitably ice over, make sure your vehicle’s tires are winter-ready. If you hit an ice patch, make sure you are in constant control of the direction and speed of your vehicle. Slow down without braking too hard, avoid distractions and anticipate the drivers around you. Remember to also stay calm – panicking on slippery roads can often lead to accidents. For more tips on safe winter driving, click here.
What are your tips for staying safe around the holiday season? Join the conversation online using @OnliaCA and #OnliaCA.