It's a snowy morning in Ottawa...Drive safe with these tips!

As Ottawa is receiving our first major snowstorm of the season…an expected 10-15cm of snow in the next 24-hours, I thought it best to write about some Winter Safety Driving Tips. These tips will help you navigate the treacherous roads that we’ll be driving on.

Plan your route in advance. Always have an alternate route planned in the event of a closed roadway due to winter storms. Check the weather forecast for the most updated news. Be aware of changing Road Conditions. I remember experiencing 4 different weather events one year while driving between Ottawa and Kingston: freezing rain, hail, light snow, followed by a complete whiteout on Hwy 401 without warning!

The 5-second rule. Leave a safe distance. Minimum “5-second rule” (I count it as “one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand…etc.). It takes longer for your car to come to a complete stop on slippery roads. Winter Tires may help enhance your breaking distance, but you should still leave ample room. Do not tailgate other cars! Do also remember to keep a safe distance back from snowplows and never pass them!

Drive slower. The posted speed limit on roadways and highways is typically for “perfect conditions”. When driving in winter conditions, especially where there’s snow, slush and ice precipitation present, SLOW DOWN! Avoid using cruise control on slippery roads. Give yourself extra travel time to arrive at your destination. Your goal should be to “Arrive Alive!”

Recovering from a Skid. Learn to recover if your vehicle skids. offers some good tips. We’ve heard the advice to “steer into the skid”. I find that mind boggling. As someone who has encountered skids before, it’s not easy trying to figure out which way the car is skidding to apply this advice. Instead, this website offers a simple solution that makes more sense: steer in the direction you want the vehicle to go! Learn to steer gently. Try to avoid violent jerks and slamming on your brakes. Unfortunately, many inexperienced drivers often do both to over-correct the vehicle while screaming wildly causing a complete spin out!

Minimize Distractions. Two hands on the wheel. Leave the phone alone! Take a few minutes to set your climate control and get comfortable in the driver’s seat before leaving for your destination. Driving should be a mono-task, not a multi-task!

Dress warmly but comfortably. Your winter clothing should not inhibit your driving ability or obstruct your view. Headscarves, toques or hoodies are not an excuse if you fail to check your blind spot and collide with another vehicle!

Safety check. Check your vehicle before you drive…especially before a road trip. Lights, Fluids, Gas, Oils, Mirrors, Heat, Defroster, Wipers. Click here to read up on how to prepare your vehicle for the winter months!

Clear ALL the snow from your car. This is one of my pet peeves in the winter! Drivers who only clear their windows but leave piles of snow and ice on their cars. You’ll recognize them from the trail of white or worse still, projectiles of ice chunks flying off their vehicle! Not only is this a hazard to obstructing other drivers’ views but it could cause physical damage when the ice missiles land on your car! In Ottawa, this offence carries a $110 fine. Not only that, you could be held responsible for causing an accident due to this negligent behaviour and it could affect your auto insurance rates! So practice road courtesy and take the extra 3-4 minutes to remove all the snow and ice from your vehicle!

Lights. Turn on your headlights and high-beams if visibility is poor. DO NOT turn on your hazard lights while driving. In some jurisdictions, this is against the law. Hazard lights actually reduce visibility, and may cause drivers to think you are stopped or stalled on the roadway.

Severe Weather. If you are driving and encounter severe weather, pull over until it’s safe to drive or avoid driving at all if you can. Make sure to bring a fully charged mobile phone, and have easy access to your Winter Emergency Kit to enable you to call for help if you get stuck!

Hopefully you found these tips helpful. Drive safe and enjoy the first snowfall of our season!

Do you have more winter safety driving tips to share? You may do so in the comments section below!

“All opinions and views expressed in this blog are of my own and do not represent the views of Allstate Insurance Co. of Canada.”