As a veteran winter driver, you probably feel a little superior to our southern friends when two inches of snow shuts down a freeway or a Florida flash freeze cripples a community.
But it takes more than a few slippery trips home in rush hour to become a pro in the snow. Solid winter driving skills take effort, education and experience. And even then, accidents happen. But the best way to avoid them is to be prepared.
Before winter starts
A lot of people wonder whether winter tires are worth it. They cost a fair bit, and then there’s the pain of swapping them out twice a year. The simple answer if you live in Canada, is yes.• Winter tires provide up to 50% more traction than other tires
• Winter tires can shorten stopping distance by up to 25%
Winter tires are made of softer rubber and have specially designed treads to grip slippery surfaces. This makes a big difference when you need to stop on a dime or find yourself sliding down a hill toward a tree, car or pedestrian.
What about the cost of winter tires?
Investing in a set of winters will actually save you money by doubling the life of your summer or all-season tires. While one set of tires is on the car, the other is sitting in storage, perfectly preserved until their next turn on the road.
But more than that, having winter tires reduces the cost of your auto insurance, as you’ll see by accounting for them in a car insurance quote. Those year-over-year savings make up a big chunk of what you paid for those tires in the first place.
The road got slippery. Now what?
Driving too fast on icy roads is not the same thing as speeding in good weather conditions. Even if you drive at your usual speed, particularly on the highway, you increase your chance of spinning out of control. You’ll also find that it’s harder to brake. If the temperature is below freezing and it’s snowing, your best bet is to slow down and take your time.
But sometimes icy conditions seem to come out of nowhere, like with black ice — a thin coat of barely visible slippery stuff on an otherwise cleared road. Be particularly vigilant on bridges, ramps and overpasses, where colder ground temperatures create black ice conditions.