Winter Vehicle Maintenance and Winter Driving Preparedness

Information is Courtesy ICBC and the BC Ministry of Transportation and Highways

Equip your vehicle:

Winter tires are not mandatory in B.C. but ICBC recommends their use in snowy conditions, particularly if you live in an area where you would normally expect a lot of snow. In snowy conditions, driving without proper winter tires may not be the wisest or safest decision, but it does not affect a customer’s insurance coverage or eligibility to make a claim.

Drivers are always responsible for ensuring their vehicles are properly equipped for road conditions, just like ensuring your wipers and headlamps are working well on dark and rainy nights. Driving without winter tires will not void your insurance in the event of a claim or mean that you are automatically at-fault for a crash. If you get in a crash where winter tires could have helped, it may be a deciding factor in determining whether or how much you are at-fault.

Keep in mind that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure can also designate that winter tires are required on certain roads and highways. This typically happens during the fall and winter months in Northern B.C. and the Southern Interior. If you are driving on these roads without winter tires, police can ticket you and make you turn back.

Winter tires are particularly recommended in areas of B.C. that experience substantial snowfall because they deliver better snow and ice performance. The tread designs on winter tires provide much better traction for driving in winter road conditions. Winter tires alone are not enough – drivers need to make smart driving decisions and adjust their driving to the road conditions. In winter weather, drivers should allow more time for travelling and most importantly, slow down and keep your distance from other vehicles so you can see more of the road.

Don’t use cruise control on slippery roads; check your tire pressure as they can deflate quickly in the cold; low-beam lights are more effective in the snow; and keep your gas tank full to prevent freezing in extreme temperatures. Keep a blanket in your car just in case you are unfortunate enough to get stranded in these wintery conditions. You can find more tips on icbc.com.

Adapt our behaviour:

While preparing our vehicles for winter driving is vital, nothing is more important than adjusting our behaviour as drivers. When we see a speed limit – say, 90km on a highway – that’s the limit in ideal road conditions.

Conditions right now are not ideal so slow down and leave more space between you and other vehicles on the road to give you the time and distance needed to best avoid any potential hazards.

When things get slippery: One of the most challenging road hazards at this time of year is black ice – it’s virtually impossible to see ahead of time, and that’s why it’s so important to slow down and try and anticipate what’s ahead by seeing how the vehicles around you are moving on the road. While it can be a natural reaction to slam on the brakes, the best thing you can do is try and slow your vehicle down to regain traction – ease off the accelerator and shift to a lower gear if possible. If you need to use the brake, be aware of the differences between using standard and ABS brakes.

Know your journey:

One of the most challenging aspects of driving in B.C. is that road conditions can vary greatly depending on where you are in the province. If you’re setting out from the Lower Mainland and driving to the Southern Interior, for example, you need to know that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure can designate winter tires to be required on certain roads and highways. If you are driving on these roads without winter tires, police can ticket you and make you turn back. Drivebc.ca is a great resource to consult ahead of time.

Prepare yourself for winter driving

First – do you really need to go? Driving in winter conditions can put you at even greater risk. Ask yourself if the trip can be delayed perhaps by just 24 hours. If you must go, make sure that you work through these seven steps:

1. Check the current road conditions and weather forecast. Listen to the radio, TV and visit DriveBC.ca. Again, ask yourself – is it safe to go?

2. Plan your route ahead of time. Avoid any roads that may become dangerous during bad weather. Respect road closure signs and barriers and do not attempt to drive on these routes until they are re-opened.

3. Leave lots of time so you’re not rushing to get to where you need to be. Try to travel during daylight and consider delaying your trip if the weather is bad. Let someone know your route and planned arrival time.

4. Learn winter road skills. If you are unfamiliar with driving in snow and icy conditions consider taking a course in winter driving training. Through training and practice, you will learn how to brake safely, how to get out of a skid, and how your car handles in winter weather.

5. Keep at least four seconds distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. This will allow plenty of room in situations where you may need to brake suddenly on a slippery surface.

6. Wear comfortable clothing that doesn’t restrict your movement while driving. Bring warm clothing (winter boots, coat, gloves and hat) with you in case you need to get out of your vehicle.

7. Have an emergency plan. If you get stuck or stranded, don’t panic. Stay with your vehicle for safety and warmth. If you have a cell phone and it is an emergency, call 911. Otherwise, call for roadside assistance.

Winter Driving – Survival Checklist

Don’t know? Don’t go.

Driving in winter conditions can be risky. Before heading out in unfavourable conditions ask yourself if the trip can be delayed. If you must go:

Visit DriveBC.ca for current road conditions. Which from their home page has a page link called Major Events which opens a page where you can select Event Types: Road Condition, Incident, Current Planned Event, or Future Planned Event and View: All, Major Events, By District, By Route, or By Popular Route

Visit ShiftIntoWinter.ca for tips on ways to prepare yourself and your vehicle, and how to drive safely on
winter roads.

Use winter tires

Use four matched winter tires. They provide better stopping power and traction in cold weather and snow. Check for wear before mounting. Check tire pressure every few weeks.

Make sure your vehicle is properly equipped in case you become stranded. Be sure to safely stow the following items:

Windshield scraper and snow brush
Extra windshield washer fluid
Flares and matches or lighter
Tire chains and gloves
First aid kit
Shovel and traction mat, sand or kitty litter
Flashlight and extra batteries
Battery jumper cables
Spare tire, wheel wrench and jack
Extra clothing and footwear
If you are travelling outside of urban areas, ensure your emergency kit also contains:
Blanket or sleeping bag
Candles
High energy food
Empty can for melting snow
Tow rope

If you get stuck in a storm, don’t panic. Avoid overexertion and exposure. Stay in your vehicle, and open your window slightly to make sure you have a supply of fresh air. Use a survival candle for heat (with appropriate care).

Use caution when running the engine with the window closed given potential exposure to exhaust fumes (exhaust systems can be blocked or damaged after a crash or loss-of-control situation). Set out a warning light or flares.

• Call toll-free 1-800-550-4997 for B.C. road information 24 hours-a-day.
DriveBC for latest highway conditions, highway cams and delay information
DriveBC Weather Information for route forecasts and current conditions