Frequently Asked Questions About Winter Driving

For more winter driving safety tips, please see the sources listed below and consider taking an online winter driving safety course.

Q: What are the three key elements to safe winter driving?

A:

  • Stay alert
  • Slow down
  • Stay in control

Q: What are some tips for driving in snow?

A:

  • Stay home. Only go out if necessary
  • Drive slowly
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly
  • Increase your following distance to five to six seconds
  • Know your brakes
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it
  • Don’t power up hills
  • Don’t stop when going up a hill

Q: Is a heavier car better in snow?

A: Heavier cars tend to do better in snow and ice than light vehicles. Tires designed for snow and ice not only have tread patterns that help with snow traction but the actual rubber compound they’re made of helps them stay softer and stickier in cold temperatures.

Q: How can I make my car better in snow?

A:

  • For rear-wheel vehicles, add weight to the rear.
  • Drive in the tracks cleared by other vehicles.
  • Get a pair of tire socks.
  • Buy a pair of easy-to-install snow chains.
  • Get winter tires.

Q: What should I do if I start to skid on black ice?

A: If you drive over black ice and start to skid, ease off the accelerator, and look and steer smoothly in the direction you want to go. Don’t brake as this will make the situation worse. You may need to repeat this manoeuvre several times until you regain control.

Q: What can I do if my car gets stuck in the snow?

A: Experts recommend that you remove the snow from around your tires to allow the wheels to roll more freely. If you have something to help your traction (such as traction mats, old carpets, salt, sand or kitty litter), put it right in front of your drive wheels. Gently rock your vehicle back and forth by shifting from forward to reverse, gradually increasing the distance with each rocking motion. Refer to the owner’s manual for more information.

Q: What are Mountain/snowflake tires?

A: If you live or travel in an area where you would typically and regularly expect snow, ice and slush, ICBC recommends using four matched winter tires that carry the mountain/snowflake symbol. Mountain/snowflake tires offer a higher level of traction in harsh winter conditions and receive their special designation for adhering to a performance-based standard (developed by the U.S. Rubber Manufacturers Association and the Rubber Association of Canada). They are the best winter tires available.

Q: Is it OK to use cruise control in winter driving conditions?

A: Avoid using cruise control in wet or slippery conditions. An activated cruise control system will continue to apply power, keeping your wheels spinning. Snow, ice, slush and rain can cause wheel-spin and loss of control. The only way to stop it is to reduce power. By the time you turn off your cruise control, it may be too late for you to get control of your steering again.

Q: How can I prevent hydroplaning?

A: Hydroplaning happens when the tires lose contact with the road surface and float on a film of water, and you lose control of steering and braking. It can occur in rain or standing water. The higher your speed, the greater your chances of hydroplaning. Prevent hydroplaning by scanning ahead for large puddles and reducing your speed, especially during heavy rain. If hydroplaning happens, don’t brake — decelerate and drive straight.

Q: What’s the recommended tread depth for winter tires?

A: ICBC advises that whichever winter tires you choose, it’s essential that they have a minimum tread depth of 3.5 mm. When you’re buying tires, remember to tell your local tire retailer what kind of road and weather conditions you drive in, so you get tires that are best suited for your needs.

Q: How do you know when it’s time to change your winter tires?

A: As a tire’s tread wears away, its traction, cornering and braking are less reliable. Most tires have tread wear indicator bars moulded into the tread face. ICBC recommends you replace your tires when the tread wear indicators in any two adjacent grooves of the tread are contacting the road.

Sources and Additional Resources

DriveBC

ICBC: Tips on winter tires

Online Training – Winter Driving Safety

To learn more about winter driving safety, take one of our online courses. Chose from the selection below:

Winter Safety: Working & Driving in Snow, Ice, & Extreme Cold

Winter Driving Fundamentals

Winter Driving Program

If you have questions please contact us