The Wonders of Winter Driving

Drivers get ready – it’s just about that time of year again. 

One centimeter of snow hits the ground and roads across the GTA turn into  bumper cars.

There seems to be this strange phenomenon that occurs each year where mass chaos and absurdity ensues as soon as the white stuff starts to hit the ground. Every time this happens, it seems as if the majority of drivers have to relearn how to drive on it; as if they’ve never seen it before. It’s like they’ve lived under cactus trees in the dessert for their entire life.

Regardless of the fact that as Canadians we spend a good chunk of our year in winter climates, it seems many of us forget how to drive once that first snowfall hits.

Last year the OPP reported that collisions were being called in at a rate of one per minute during the first snowfall. So before the winter decides to bless us with the first blast of the year, consider this a preview of some of the things you will most likely witness this winter – and want to avoid.

“Move over, I’ve got an SUV”

So what there’s snow on the ground?

With slightly bigger tires and ground clearance your massive gas guzzling SUV is capable of climbing Mount Everest (or at least that’s what the salesman told you). No need to slow down or wait for the snow plow to clear the road.

Just go around them.

This is the mentality many SUV drivers take as smaller vehicles slow down accordingly. Yes, four wheel drive vehicles do typically perform better in winter conditions, giving traction to all four wheels when needed. But unless your SUV magically converts into one of the Decepticons from Transformers you’re not invincible.

Have some consideration for the rest of the cars on the road – they’ll be the ones calling for help when you roll your four wheel drive vehicle into the ditch anyways.

“All-season tires are good enough”

Well actually, they’re not.

It’s kind of like wearing running shoes in the winter – it might work for a short while but you’re going to fall flat on your ass eventually. Listen up people. I know the last few winters have been on the milder side. I understand that.

But this isn’t Hawaii.

Driving with all-season tires year round will either get you

A. stranded

or

B. Killed.

FACTS:

Winter tires are made with softer rubber material that provides enhanced grip in sub-zero temperatures. The additional grip allows you to stop faster and make turns without sliding out. Those “all season” tires you have on the other hand become useless once freezing temperatures are reached. And in case you still aren’t convinced, Quebec has witnessed an 18% decline in winter collisions since making the use of snow tires mandatory.

So make the investment before you have to call your neighbour to help push you out of your own driveway.

“The Blizzard Makers”

So you left your car parked outside for the night and now you’ve got three feet of snow piled on top of it. But you’ve got somewhere to go and can’t be late.

Or maybe you’re afraid you might touch it and get hypothermia.

So you blindly drive away flicking your wipers on but they don’t work. They’re frozen. So you go to your last resort and shoot the windshield with a blast of washer fluid.

Congratulations – you’ve just made a mini ice rink.

But not only are you driving a vehicle practically blindfolded – you’ve also in the process blinded the hundreds of cars behind you thanks to the snow now blowing onto their windshields.

Lesson of the story – take the thirty seconds to wipe the snow off the top of your vehicle (including the windshield) BEFORE you decide to drive off and create a mini blizzard.

In case you don’t know, they do sell brushes for this sort of thing.

“The speed seekers”

There’s a certain group of individuals who will stop at nothing to get where they need to go as fast as possible. They’ll weave in and out of traffic and drive two centimeters away from cars in front of them even in the presence of a full-fledged Canadian snow storm.

Then when they crash into

  • other vehicles
  • guardrails
  • bridges
  • ditches
  • bus terminals
  • light posts

they’ll blame it on “poor driving conditions” and file for an insurance claim.

Unless you drive some sort of hovercraft you really need slow down and give yourself some space.

It takes on average 10 times longer to bring your vehicle to a stop when braking on snowy and ice roads – so if you can read that bumper sticker on the car in front of you you’re probably a bit too close.

“The panic turtles”

Driving in snow and ice requires concentration and patience.

You have to slow down and limit yourself from any abrupt movements that could send your car sliding out of control. But if you have to drive at walking speeds in order to feel comfortable, please do us all a favor and safely pull over to the side.

Better yet, stay home.

Listen, I appreciate you driving within your limits and your concern for safety.

We all do.

But when old ladies in Buicks are passing and you see a line of eighty cars behind you (usually honking and waving middle fingers) it’s probably time to call it quits. Perhaps you can call a taxi or take the bus; they do this sort of thing for a living so they’re bound to be better at it then you are.

Maybe it’s something they should start teaching us in driving school because every year we get snow. After seven years of driving it still amazes me how people act like they’ve never seen it before.

It’s just a matter of time before that first bit of white goodness hits the ground and all hell breaks loose on roads across the GTA. In the meantime, I’ll cross my fingers and hope I’ve got nowhere to go when it does.  So this year do us all a favour and prepare for winter driving BEFORE it’s too late.

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One thought on “The Wonders of Winter Driving

  1. John says:

    So true!

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