Ontario got its first blast of winter as Environment Canada issued a warning that some regions could be hit with upwards of 20 centimeters of snow. What began as a nor’easter turned into a slow moving storm that made its way across Atlantic Canada into Quebec (15-20 cm) and eastern Ontario (15-20 cm) before sweeping into the GTA and southern Ontario.
According to CTV news, the first major snowstorm hit the GTA with a vengeance on Thursday morning, December 11 causing major traffic problems and more than 200 collisions reported to Toronto Police by 4 p.m. Cars crawled along in treacherous conditions during the early morning commute and tempers flared between drivers and snow plow operators. By 8 a.m. CAA South Central Ontario had received approximately 75 calls for service and by early afternoon the number of calls for assistance exceeded 2,500. Air Canada grounded their fleet and cancelled more than 350 flights at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport while Porter Airlines dumped most of its morning flights.
Since the winter season can paralyze many parts of the country with mounds of snow, sleet, ice, gale force winds and extremely frigid temperatures, it’s essential that motorists are prepared for driving in dangerous weather conditions. Regardless whether it’s your first winter driving expedition or your twentieth, it’s important that your vehicle is prepared and your driving style is adjusted to meet challenging road conditions. By following these simple safety precautions and winter driving tips, you’ll be better equipped to arrive safely to your destination and avoid the hazards that most motorists face during the unpredictable stormy months of winter travel.
Prepare Your Vehicle:
1. Get your vehicle ready with a maintenance check-up. Make sure that it is operating at peak performance by being mechanically sound for winter conditions.
2. It is recommended that your gas tank is always half full. You don’t want to be stuck in a traffic jam or get caught off guard getting through the scene of an accident with the gas needle nearing empty and nowhere to fill up.
3. Make sure that you have sufficient windshield washer fluid in its receptacle and it’s always topped up. It’s also advisable to have an extra jug in your car for safety measures.
4. Make sure that your tire pressure on all four tires is set for the right amount of air. Inspect the tires to be certain they are in good condition for winter driving and they have good tread for traction in the snow or on ice.
5. Before heading out, clear off the snow and ice from the entire surface of the car. Once the car has started, wait a few minutes for the fog to clear from the interior windows.
6. Be certain that your head-lights and tail-lights are cleared of any debris.
The Survival Kit:
Because winter weather conditions are erratic and often hazardous while traveling by car, it’s worth your safety and peace of mind to have a survival kit packed in the vehicle in the event that you might become stuck, stranded, or in an accident waiting for help to arrive. Here is a list of some of the recommended items that can be packed in a duffle bag and stored in the trunk:
The Snow Storm Survival Kit:
• Ice scraper-snowbrush
• Sand or other traction aids like kitty litter
• Tow rope or chain
• Booster cables
• Road flares or warning lights
• Fuel line antifreeze
• Flashlight and extra batteries (check expiry dates so they work when you need them)
• First aid kit
• Fire extinguisher
• Small tool kit and/or a Swiss army knife
• Extra clothing and bulky boots plus thick socks, a hat that covers the ears and mittens
• Blanket (preferably wool or heavy fleece because it holds the heat better)
• Non-perishable energy foods like chocolate, granola bars, juice, instant soup or beef jerky.
• Bottled water
• Candles (candles provide light and interior warmth in the car if the engine has failed)
• Matches or a lighter
• Toilet paper and paper towels
• A cell phone and charger for the phone
Rules of the Road: Safety First
The three rules that help motorists stay safe when driving in hazardous winter conditions is to be alert, slowdown, and stay in control of the vehicle. Give yourself extra time to get to your destination and keep an increased distance from the car in front of you. Plan your route ahead of time and if possible, stay on the main roads. Also, avoid using cruise control in the event of hitting a patch of black ice and losing control of the vehicle.
Drivers should use extreme caution when snow plows are clearing lanes, especially on the highways because the plows are wider at the front than they appear from behind. It is safer and more prudent to stay back from the plows and let the plows lead the way since the road is always in better shape after the lanes has been cleared. Drivers should be patient and never pass or drive beside a snow plow because the blades extend beyond the dimension of the plow and attempting to pass it can lead to accidents and fatal injuries.
In the end, the best advice for driving during bad winter weather conditions is to stay off the roads as much as possible, or not drive at all. However, if you must travel, then check the travel advisories for weather and road conditions before you venture out and continue to monitor them regularly. Let people know your route and estimated arrival time. Traveling by car during the winter months is always a challenging and stressful event for many motorists, but by using some of these common sense suggestions, your journey will result in getting to your destination safely and on time.