5 winter driving tips from the pros

Consider how many times during the holiday season you will get behind the wheel, with endless trips to pick up gifts, food, supplies and visiting loved ones. But despite the reputation of Canadians as cold weather warriors, winter driving can still be daunting for many of us. Add in unpredictable weather, slick roads and poor visibility and even the most confident drivers hesitate to turn the ignition.

“The holidays are a busy time – and not just on local roads. Drivers are travelling greater distances to visit family and friends,” says UPS Canada vice-president of operations Lou Rivieccio.“Ensuring you know proper driving techniques and arming yourself with the right tools will make the roads much safer for you and other motorists.”

A recent survey by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia noted that 70 per cent of drivers admit to feeling frustrated and less safe when driving in winter conditions—and not surprisingly, accidents occur far more frequently.

Rivieccio points out that part of UPS’s commitment to road safety is their Circle of Honour program – a dedicated group of active drivers who have maintained a clean driving record for 25 years or more. To date, Circle of Honour drivers have logged more than eight billion accident-free kilometres on the road. That’s enough kilometres to circle the earth 188,000 times. Here are five winter driving tips to keep you safe this season, courtesy of the Circle of Honour:

Prep for winter in the fall. Be proactive and get your car serviced before the cold weather hits. Check your oil, washer fluid and brakes. Invest in a pair of tires specifically for winter driving. Make sure your battery is charged, confirm all lights are working, get quality windshield wipers and test the heating/cooling system.

Monitor the weather. Winter weather can change on a dime, so take a minute to check the report before you hit the road. If there has been a recent snowfall, avoid side streets and shortcuts – those are the last places to see the snowplow. Be cautious of black ice, especially if the temperature has been mild and then dropped.

Drive safely with a clear view. When you’re clearing your car of snow, don’t overlook the roof, hood and trunk. Snow can fly up and unexpectedly obscure visibility once you’re on the road. Mirrors should always be defrosted and wiped clear and headlights should be clean of dirt and ice.

Always be prepared Create an emergency kit containing non-perishable snacks, bottled water, maps, flashlight, blankets, toilet paper, de-icer, washer fluid and an extra windshield brush. Keep an extra shovel in the trunk as well –you’ll be glad if you ever get caught needing it.

It’s not a race. Arriving safely should be your goal. Leave yourself extra time to reach your destination so you don’t feel pressured to rush. Speed is one of the biggest causes of motor accidents. Stay alert – you may be completely confident in your skills, but always remember that the other drivers may not.