6 Essential Tips for a Safe Winter Road Trip
Planning a winter road trip? Don’t pull out of the driveway before reviewing our winter driving checklist.
Get a good night’s sleep before hitting the road
While being well-rested before a long drive is important year-round, it’s especially true when you’re setting out on a winter road trip. Road conditions can change quickly this time of year, and snow and ice often require drivers to manoeuvre or change their driving quickly. Alertness, therefore, is key, and might mean factoring in a few extra hours of sleep prior to departure. (And sorry, coffee fans—caffeine is not a substitute for sleep!)
You should also consider refraining from nighttime driving, if possible, as low light further decreases visibility, adding another layer of difficulty to the drive.
Equip your vehicle with the right tires
While Quebec is currently the only province that requires vehicles to be equipped with winter tires, they’re a good investment across the country, especially if you’ll be driving long distances and through various types of terrain. Road conditions vary from climate to climate, and just because you don’t require winter tires at home doesn’t mean you won’t need them en route to your destination. The Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC) claims that modern winter tires can offer over 50% more traction than all-season tires in the winter, and that they can improve surface grip in every type of road condition at temperatures below seven degrees Celsius. This, combined with an insurance premium reduction and peace-of-mind should convince most drivers that winter tires are well worth the investment.
Carry valid proof of vehicle registration and insurance
Insurance providers in Canada consistently register a 49% increase in claims in December and January as compared to other months. That said, even the most seasoned drivers are more likely to get into an accident in winter months. This is why it’s important to always have a valid proof of insurance and registration for the vehicle that you are driving to avoid hassle and any potential legal ramifications.
Check out the five things you should always keep in your car’s glove box!
Optimize your visibility
Before setting off on your winter road trip, be sure to top up with winter washer fluid (yes, there are different types of washer fluid for different seasons). Winter fluid has a lower freezing point than summer fluid and will be able to clean your windscreen in even the coldest of temperatures. It’s essential to have a sufficient amount of windshield fluid prior to departure as you’ll constantly be battling spray from other vehicles, which puts a higher demand on your car’s washer fluid than usual. In addition to winter washer fluid, be sure to have winter wiper blades. These differ from summer blades, as they’re designed to clear ice, and substantially improve visibility. These must-have winter accessories are relatively cheap and easy to install.
Is your windshield washer acting up? Here are step-by-step instructions on how to fix a clogged windshield washer!
Pack a winter road trip emergency kit
When it comes to a winter road trip, there are certain things that you just shouldn’t leave home without. Your vehicle’s emergency kit should include a snow brush and ice scraper to clear off your car in the event of snowfall, a set of jumper cables for your battery, a backup cell phone charger as well as snacks and a blanket in the unlikely event of a breakdown. While we hope you won’t need any of these supplies, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Plan your route
Checking for road closures and potentially challenging driving conditions prior to departure can be a great way to reduce risk—and travel time. Check the weather in both the place of departure as well as the destination. There are also a number of smartphone apps that will warn you of any road closures, including Waze, which uses P2P data.