If you ask the calendar, it may be autumn. But, judging by the weather forecast, winter is here. And that means acute amnesia will divorce Saskatchewan’s drivers from the ability to travel safely on snow and ice. Here are some tips to help improve your winter driving – and keep you out of the ditch.
In Saskatchewan, you should have winter tires. It’s that simple. Three-season tires (formerly all-season) perform worse than winter tires at temperatures below 7 °C – regardless of the road conditions. And below °C, they’re patently dangerous. Your stopping distance will be much greater. If you insist on using one set of tires for the whole year, use all-weather tires. They are softer than three-season tires, so they won’t become quite as stiff in the cold.
Winter tires (and all-weathers, to an extent) also have tread patterns designed for snow. Aggressive, deep grooves dig through fresh powder You’ll also find greater gaps between treads to help compact the snow. Winter tires are also built with the most pliable rubber. In the extreme cold, when regular tires turn into hockey pucks, winter tires remain flexible enough to provide good grip and contact with the road.
Four-wheel drive supplies variable torque to each of our vehicle’s wheels to give you the most possible traction. Obviously that’s a great benefit during the winter. With four-wheel drive, you’re less likely to get stuck in snow, because it’s likely at least one of your wheels will have some purchase on the road. And, four-wheel drive helps you accelerate from a stop. More balanced torque distribution means you’re less likely to slip when you press the accelerator. But four-wheel drive does not make you invincible.
Four-wheel drive might instill you with confidence while accelerating from a stop. But you shouldn’t carry that confidence into your braking. When braking, there’s no difference between AWD, FWD, and RWD. So, drive just as slowly as you would without four-wheel drive. And allow for a generous following distance between yourself and the preceding vehicle.
Dreaded black ice: the scourge of winter driving. What is black ice? Well, it’s just ice. We call it black ice because it’s clear, and takes the colour of the pavement beneath it. Black ice forms when
You’ll find black ice most commonly in shaded areas – under an overpass, below trees, et c… But during winter, you may find it anywhere, especially if the area has recently experienced freezing rain. Before you start driving, check the pavement. If you see dark, glossy patches surrounded by dry pavement, that’s probably black ice, so drive slowly.
If you do get caught off guard by black ice, stay calm. Unlike driving on snow, or regular slippery conditions, you can’t rely on your brakes to regain control. Even the combination of ABS and Electronic Stability Control won’t help you because your wheels will have zero grip. Instead, just wait until your vehicle passes over the black ice and regains grip. Don’t turn your steering wheel away from the slide. This gives you less contact with the road and will cause your car to change directions dangerously once you do regain grip.
Keys to Winter Driving
- Get winter tires!
- Drive slowly
- Leave safe following distances
- Don’t “over-correct” on black ice
Oh, and don’t forget to winterize your vehicle! It should always be stocked with some basic safety gear.