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There’s no denying that Canadian winters are beautiful. But when you have to get in your car and hit the road, that picturesque snow globe we call home can start to look a little less sparkly. Whether you’re a new driver or a seasoned veteran, take some practical precautions before, during, and after each winter drive to make sure you (and your vehicle) arrive safe and sound.

Before driving in a snowstorm

By now, you’ve likely installed your winter tires, which is one of the most important things you can do to stay safe on the roads in the frosty months. But winter tires alone don’t guarantee an easy drive, so take these five simple steps before you venture onto snow-covered streets:

  1. If your car is nestled in a bed of snow, shovel a path from your car to the street so you won’t get stuck on your way out of the driveway.
  2. Start your car and crank up the front and rear defrosters. (And point your vents up towards your windshield for more efficient defrosting.)
  3. Grab your snow brush and wipe off your entire car — not just your windows. Any snow or ice left on your vehicle’s body can blow around or break off when you’re driving and make it even tougher to see. It could also slide off your roof and onto another vehicle, making it difficult for other drivers to see and potentially causing a dangerous situation. Don’t forget to brush off your lights, too!
  4. If there’s ice on your windows and windshield, be sure to scrape off the area around your wiper blades carefully to avoid damaging the rubber. If the ice is too thick to scrape, wait for your defrosters to kick in a little and try again. (If you have de-icing windshield washer fluid, now is the time to use it!)
  5. Remember to dress for the weather and keep a well-stocked winter driving emergency kit, even if you’re only travelling a short distance — things like extra windshield washer fluid, road salt, and jumper cables sure can come in handy.

A tip from Mother Nature: To reduce your impact on the environment, avoid idling for longer than a few minutes. Instead, consider using a block heater to warm up your vehicle’s cabin more quickly, reduce stress on your engine, and save fuel.

During your winter drive

When you’re on the road during or after a fresh snowfall, keep these pointers in mind for a safe and easy ride:

  1. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. Accelerating too quickly on snowy, slushy, or icy streets can make your wheels spin and cause you to lose control of your car. Put your foot gently on the gas and accelerate gradually.
  2. Don’t ditch your safe driving habits when you’re under pressure. Keep your eyes on the road and travel at a pace you feel is safe — and don’t speed up to escape the big pick-up truck on your tail. Instead, pull over safely and let him pass you.
  3. Always leave yourself extra time to stop when driving in slippery conditions, even when you have winter tires.
  4. If your car has an anti-lock braking system (or ABS), always press your foot firmly on the brake pedal and keep it there until you come to a complete stop, even if you feel like your vehicle is sliding. You could feel a vibration and hear a quick pulsing sound, but don’t remove your foot or start pumping the brake pedal.

After you arrive at your destination

Once you arrive at your final stop, turn off your windshield wipers — this will prevent them from moving automatically and getting damaged next time you start your car. You should also make sure that you’ve parked in an approved parking zone, as some municipalities have laws against parking on the street during the winter months, even just for a few hours. While this may seem inconvenient, knowing whether or not you can park on the street could save you from finding your car stuck in a snowbank after the plow goes by.

Consider these three post-park tips to prepare you for your next drive:

  1. Some people say putting clean, dry socks over your wiper blades can prevent them from getting covered in ice and sticking to your windshield. Or you could simply lift your wiper blades up so they don’t freeze to the glass.
  2. Consider cleaning your headlights with toothpaste to keep them shiny and bright all winter long. Not only can clean headlights help you see what’s in front of you, but they can help others see you more clearly too.
  3. Try putting a zip-top bag around each of your side mirrors and sealing it up to prevent snow and ice from sticking to them overnight.

Even with all the right precautions in place, we know that accidents happen. Want to learn how your car insurance can help warm you up in the event of an icy winter driving mishap? Reach out to your licensed insurance broker to find out.