Snow, sleet, rain and fog are just some of the challenging conditions we can experience when driving in our province. Since weather is unpredictable, make sure you always plan ahead to make your trip safer and that your vehicle’s seasonally prepared — it’s just as important as slowing down and observing the posted traffic or road advisories.
Make your drive safer
If you can’t avoid driving in poor conditions, here are some tips to make your drive safer:
- Posted speed limits are designed for ideal road conditions. Slow down when driving on snow, ice, slush or rain.
- Allow yourself at least twice the normal braking distance on wet or slippery roads.
- Avoid driving through flooded or washed out roads.
- Use extreme caution when approaching highway maintenance equipment including plows, salt and sand trucks. Never pass on the right.
- Low beams are more effective in fog or heavy snow.
- Check tire pressure regularly. Pressure drops in colder conditions.
- Keep the wiper fluid topped up for clearer visibility.
- Keep your gas tank full to prevent gasoline from freezing in extreme temperatures.
- Check roads and weather before your trip at toll-free 1-800-550-4997 or www.drivebc.ca
When do I need winter tires?
Certain highways in B.C. require the use of winter tires at certain times of the year. Signs are posted on these designated highways to advise drivers where and when winter tires are required. Both the mountain snowflake and all-season mud and snow (M+S) tires meet the requirement of winter tires in B.C.
A performance-based standard (mutually agreed upon by the U.S. Rubber Manufacturers Association and the Rubber Association of Canada) specifically designates passenger and light truck winter tires that provide a higher level of traction in harsh winter conditions. Winter tires that meet these standards are identified by a three-peak mountain and snowflake symbol.
M+S tires are a safe option if you only encounter winter conditions on a limited basis and are prepared to drive with added care and caution. Whichever winter tires you choose, it’s important that they have a minimum tread depth of 3.5 mm. When you’re buying tires, remember to tell your local tire retailer what kind of road and weather conditions you drive in, so you get tires that are best suited for your needs.
If you live or travel in an area where you would normally and regularly expect snow, ice and slush, we recommend using four matched winter tires that carry the mountain/snowflake winter tire symbol.
What if my car’s stuck in the snow?
Clear away the snow from around your tires to allow your wheels to roll more freely. If you have something to help your traction (such as traction mats, old carpets, salt, sand or kitty litter), put it right in front of your drive wheels. Gently rock your vehicle back and forth by shifting from forward to reverse, gradually increasing the distance with each rocking motion. Refer to the owner’s manual for more information.
How can I regain control if my vehicle skids due to black ice?
Skids can happen any time your tires lose grip on the road. If you drive over black ice and your vehicle starts to skid, ease off the accelerator, and look and steer smoothly in the direction you want to go. Don’t brake — this will make the situation worse! You may need to repeat this manoeuvre several times until you regain control.
Is cruise control okay in winter driving conditions?
Don’t use cruise control in wet or slippery conditions. An activated cruise control system will continue to apply power, keeping your wheels spinning. Snow, ice, slush and rain can cause wheel-spin and loss of control. The only way to stop it is to reduce power. By the time you turn off your cruise control, it may be too late for you to get control of your steering again.
How can I prevent hydroplaning?
Hydroplaning takes place when the tires lose contact with the road surface and float on a film of water, and you lose control of steering and braking. It can happen in rain or standing water. The higher your speed, the greater your chances of hydroplaning. Prevent hydroplaning by scanning ahead for large puddles and reducing your speed, especially during heavy rain. If hydroplaning happens, don’t brake — decelerate and drive straight.
Will my anti-lock braking system (ABS) help me stop quicker in poor weather?
While an anti-lock braking system (ABS) doesn’t allow you to drive faster or to stop sooner, it can help prevent wheels from locking up on wet and slippery surfaces. ABS also helps you maintain steering and avoid skidding while braking. In order for ABS to function properly, apply firm, hard, continuous pressure to the brake pedal until the vehicle stops. Don’t pump the brakes as this action turns the system on and off. It’s normal to
experience brake noise or shudder when ABS is in use.
What about electronic stability control (ESC)?
Electronic stability control (ESC) helps you keep control of your vehicle especially on slippery roads or in emergency situations, such as swerving to avoid an obstacle. But remember that ESC can’t override a vehicle’s physical limits. If a driver pushes the possibilities of the vehicle’s handling too far, ESC can’t prevent a crash. Like ABS, it’s a tool to help you maintain control.