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Winter driving tips

Canadian drivers understand that inclement winter weather can present many challenges on the road. Before hitting the road in icy or snowy winter weather, check out the winter driving tips below.

Winter driving

Get Ready

Be sure your vehicle is prepared to take on winter roads by ensuring a maintenance check has been done, window-washer fluid is topped-off, the gas tank is filled, and snow has been cleaned off. The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) maintains that your best bet for traction is to outfit the vehicle with winter tires (mandatory in the province of Quebec), though all-season tires are sufficient in many regions. It’s also a good idea to check tire-pressure frequently in colder months.

Before setting out on a trip, check with Environment Canada online to get the weather forecast and highway conditions. Dress appropriately when driving in the winter in case the need to leave the vehicle arises. Leave extra time to arrive at your destination.

Get Set

It’s critical to know how to handle your vehicle properly in winter weather, and to understand how your braking system works in different road conditions. If you’re not confident, consider taking a winter driving course in your area to acquire the necessary skills.

Carry a winter driving kit in the vehicle. Among the items to include suggested by the MTO:

  • Snow brush/ice-scraper
  • Shovel (foldaway versions work great)
  • Sand (or kitty litter) for traction
  • Rope or chain for towing
  • Booster cables
  • Road flares
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Gas line antifreeze
  • First aid kit
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Tools
  • Extra clothing items
  • Blanket
  • Non-perishable food
  • Water
  • Candle/matches


When driving on winter roads, be aware that different types of snow will affect the vehicle’s tires and your ability to steer. Watch for frost or black, shiny patches on roads, which could indicate a slippery area that will cause the vehicle to lose traction. Turn on all of your vehicle’s lights in situations with poor visibility or whiteout conditions.

Drive more slowly in winter conditions, allow plenty of space between yourself and the driver in front of you (two second rule applies) and leave extra time to get stopped. If you begin to skid in slippery conditions, steer in the direction of the skid to help regain control. The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) advises to avoid forceful braking while in a skid.

Should you become stranded or stuck, stay in the vehicle, call for help from a cell phone (if possible), use flares or hazard lights to stand out, and wait for help to arrive. Run the vehicle only as often as required to stay warm, crack a window for fresh air, and be mindful of exhaust fumes – clear the vehicle’s tailpipe of snow. If you wish to attempt to dig out from a snow bank, go easy and don’t risk over-exertion as clothes that become wet from either precipitation or sweat can result in a significant loss of body heat.

More driving tips

Driving safely during storm surges and floods
Pet safety in your car
5 Reasons to enroll your teen in driving school

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