Text by Lesley Baker
Every winter snow brings beauty to Manitoba, but it also contributes to hundreds of avoidable automobile accidents. While living in a four season area all drivers need to be aware of defensive winter driving techniques. So where do we begin?
1) Before starting your vehicle make sure your windshield wipers are not frozen to the glass. Then, while letting your vehicle warm up, go around to each of the windows and mirrors and scrape off all snow and ice. Remember to clear off the snow from your roof and hood. Flying snow and iced windows because poor vision and contribute too many accidents.
2) Check all your lights and flashers. Make sure the snow is cleared from your lights so that other vehicles can see you properly. If visibility is anything less than normal, turn your head-lights to low beam, even during daylight hours. Other drivers will be able to see you from further away. Never use parking lights while driving on a highway, it confuses other drivers.
3) If you are stuck in your parking spot, try rocking the car back and forth in a gentle motion. For rear drive cars, the bare spot where the car is standing may provide enough initial traction to get you going. For front wheel drive vehicles, backing in snow is more difficult than for rear wheel so plan ahead. If you have a rear wheel drive, you will want to put as much weight as possible over the drive wheels.
4) You never know when you are apt to get stuck so carry a shovel, kitty litter, a burlap bag or cardboard box. If you do get stuck, place some kitty litter or a burlap bag under the tires in order to give your wheels some traction. Work your vehicle back and forth in gentle motions while gently turning your wheels at the same time.
5) If the main traffic lane is slippery and you’re having trouble getting up the hill, try driving slowly with two wheels on the edge of the road. If your drive wheels start to spin or slide while going up a hill, ease off the accelerator slightly, and then resume speed.
6) Try to avoid going up a hill right behind another vehicle. Keep at least 3 car lengths away when it is slippery. When approaching a hill behind a vehicle, follow the other car at a significant distance and then pick your own pace and maintain it.
7) To correct a skid TURN WHEEL IN THE DIRECTION OF THE SKID. If your rear end starts sliding to the right, turn the wheel to the right. If your rear end starts sliding to the left, turn the wheel to the left. Do not apply the brakes while in a skid. You have absolutely no control over a skidding car when the wheels are locked.
8) Break gently with an on off motion. Jamming breaks on ice will cause you to spin out of control.
9) Decelerate well in advance of a turn, a stop sign or light. Slow down to turn and only gently accelerate.
10) When the Highways Department or RCMP recommend you do not travel. DON’T TRAVEL. If you must stay home, take the time to relax. Many people dismiss road warnings thinking they can beat the weather conditions. That’s when major accidents happen. You’re not only putting yourself in danger, you are also endangering the lives of others.
11) Remember your emergency kit. A couple of very warm blankets, a lighter, cell phone, shovel, kitty litter, some flat cardboard boxes, a flashlight, a few power bars, a first aid kit and some flares. The best way to avoid disaster is to be prepared for anything and everything!
Drive safe this winter, your family and other motorists will thank you.