While the weather outside can be frightful for driving and travel, we talked to Greg van Dalen of Calabogie Motorsports Park to see what every driver should consider before they hit the roads this winter season. Greg has also been a driving instructor for the past 10 years at the Motorsport Club of Ottawa and in his free time, he races on snow and ice. Read on for his vehicle checklist and winter driving tips for when you hit the roads.
Extreme Weather Checklist:
- Tires, Tires, Tires: Proper winter tires are so important since they will help you avoid accidents, stop sooner and travel safely through icy roads. Look for the snowflake symbol on your tires — if it’s not there, your tires won’t help you. As for all-season tires? You might as well call them “no season” tires. They are a compromise designed to meet the basics on any surface, and they are not the safest.
- Air Pressure: Be sure to check the air pressure when the cold season approaches. You’ll lose 1 pound per square inch (psi) for every 5.5 degree drop in temperature. So, your -13F morning tires are going to be low and possibly unsafe.
- Keep a safety kit in the trunk: Your safety kit should include a small foldable shovel, flashlight, washer fluid, tire gauge, blanket, hat and gloves, a cell phone charger and any other essentials. Additionally, an AAA card is small insurance that will come in handy when you least expect it.
Now that you’ve prepared the vehicle for optimum safety and comfort in hard winter conditions, it’s time to prepare the driver.
Winter Driving Tips:
- Check your seat: Can you place your foot on the floor just past the pedal? If you can’t, you’re sitting too far from the wheel and need to adjust your seat. Make sure your foot can reach the floor — if you can’t and are faced with an emergency stop, you won’t be getting 100% of your vehicle’s braking potential.
- Enroll in winter driving school: This is a must for anyone lacking the confidence to drive on winter roads. If there is no school available in your area, find an empty snow covered parking lot and become familiar with your vehicle’s dynamics. Practice braking and putting the pedal to the floor to observe what happens. Some modern ABS braking systems are loud and sound like they are trying to hurt your vehicle, but don’t worry about it — the system is acting quicker than any human could. Other things to practice are braking and turning at the same time. These drills will help you become familiar with what your vehicle is doing.
- Keep your eyes on the road: It’s simple and key in all situations: look where you want to go. Make sure to look down the road as far ahead as possible while you are driving — your brain will react to what you are focused on and your hands and feet will follow.
Patience is key as you hit the winter roads this year. Make sure to plan your travel, add extra time and avoid rushing. Apps like Google Maps and Waze can show you traffic jams in real time, and help you reach your destination in a safe and timely manner while keeping both hands on the wheel. Stay safe this winter season and see you out there on the roads!