Common sense key to safe winter driving


When your car is sliding across three lanes, that winter survival kit in the trunk isn’t going to be much help.

Driving experts tell the Sun mental preparedness is key year-round, but especially in wintry weather.

“A lot of people tend to panic and hit the brake in a skid and that’s very detrimental,” said Cliff Rowe, a senior driving instructor with Young Drivers of Canada in Ottawa. “If you get into a skid or a slide, you should go off your gas. Don’t hit the brake…steer into the skid.”

Tuesday’s combination of ice pellets, heavy snow and freezing rain created headaches for commuters and travellers. Dozens of flights arriving and leaving the Ottawa airport were delayed or cancelled.

But icy streets didn’t stop heavy-footed motorists. Between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m., there were about 20 collisions, “which isn’t too bad, considering the weather and road conditions,” said Ottawa police Const. Henri Lanctot.

A normal day sees 60 crashes.

When the roads are slick, slowing down is a must, said Rowe.

“Take off five to 10 km/h and once again, the following distance between the vehicles, try to increase it. If it’s normally two seconds on a dry road, add one or two seconds on, or even more, depending on the conditions,” Rowe said.

Gabriel Chiujdea from Rite On Driving School recommends being aware of surroundings by using mirrors.

“Look around. Check all the time: Left, right, front, back,” he said.

Chiujdea says drivers should use headllights during the daytime.

“The newer cars, they already have the headlights on once you start the car. But the older versions, you may have to use it all the time when getting in the car, just because you’ve got to be seen,” he said, adding while it may not help oncoming drivers, those behind you have a better chance of seeing you.

During inclement weather, the safest thing to do is stay home, said CAA spokesman Korey Kennedy.

For drivers who don’t have that option, “they should be extremely vigilant/alert, well rested, sober, as well as always ensure that they wear the respective seatbelt,” said Kennedy.

He stresses the importance of cleaning snow from the entire car, especially the roof, hood, and trunk.

Failing to do so “runs the risk that it flies off and impedes the visibility of other motorists,” said Kennedy.

Lanctot echoed Kennedy’s sentiments.

“You’d be surprised by the number of motorists that don’t do that,” said Lanctot.


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