Ice storms. Blizzards. Freezing winds. We have already faced some extreme early-winter weather this season. If you have managed to brave the weather and not suffer any serious mishaps, you should consider yourself lucky. But don’t get too confident. You might start to walk winter sidewalks without concern, or your driving speed might inch back up if you feel invincible in your four-wheel drive or snow-tire clad vehicle. Unfortunately, one bad incident can have long-term devastating consequences. You need to use extra caution when you’re en route to ensure that you stay safe as you navigate through extreme weather conditions.
Here are some tips and tricks to help you manoeuvre and motor safely for the remainder of the season.
On your own two feet:
- Wear a good pair of winter boots. They should be well insulated, with a thick, non-slip tread sole.
- Make yourself visible to drivers by wearing bright colours or adding reflective material to your clothing.
- When walking over an icy patch, slow down and spread your feet apart to help stabilize yourself as you walk. Use shuffling steps to prevent slipping.
- Keep your hands out of your pockets, ready to steady yourself in case of slips.
- Look ahead where you’re going and anticipate obstacles.
- Avoid carrying heavy loads that may tip your balance.
- Walk along the grassy edges for maximum traction if the walkway is covered in ice.
On four wheels:
The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all. But we don’t all have the luxury of staying at home and turning up the thermostat. If you must drive in snowy conditions, make sure your car is prepared, and that you know how to handle treacherous road conditions. Here are some things to remember:
- Winterize your car – check your tires (consider winter tires if you haven’t already), check your fluid levels, check the battery, and check your windshield wipers.
- Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop.
- Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake.
- Keep your lights and windshield clean.
- Be especially careful on bridges and overpasses, which will freeze first.
- Don’t assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Four-wheel, all-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles are not exempt from the laws of physics and can encounter trouble on winter roads—particularly if you’re driving too fast.
- Pack an emergency kit.
- Wear your seatbelt.
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation has published a Winter Driving Brochure that contains helpful information about driving safely in winter and winter road maintenance practices.
Wishing you a safe and slip-free winter!
Contributed by Erin Ellis, an OTLA member and a lawyer practising with Jellinek Law Office in Toronto, Ont.