With southern and central Alberta's first snowfall expected to hit on Sunday, police are warning drivers to take precautions to prepare for dangerous winter conditions.

Snow is expected to hit both Edmonton and Calgary by Sunday afternoon, and police say the accumulation can sometimes take drivers by surprise.

"Some drivers are unprepared for the annual transition from dry pavement of summer to winter driving conditions that can include snow and slush-covered highways, black ice and blizzards," said Howard Eaton, the superintendent in charge of RCMP in Alberta.

According to Environment Canada, roughly five to 10 centimetres are expected in Calgary. Edmonton is facing about two to four centimetres, and temperatures in both cities will drop to around - 5 C.

RCMP say there are several things motorists can do to reduce their risk of an accident:

  • Slow down when highway conditions are not ideal. The posted limit is for ideal conditions. Drivers have a legal obligation to drive according to road conditions and can be charged with a traffic offence if driving too fast.
  • Stay off the roads during major storms unless travel is absolutely necessary.
  • Keep your headlights on at all times. Low beams are more effective than high beams in fog or heavy snow conditions, and turning on headlights will activate your tail lights and make you more visible for drivers behind you.
  • Ensure your vehicle is in safe mechanical condition and do not drive without snow tires.
  • Never use cruise control in winter conditions and avoid sudden moves by anticipating turns or lane changes.
  • Allow yourself at least three times the normal following distance to stop on wet or slick surfaces.
  • Remember that bridge decks may be slippery even when other parts of the highway are not.
  • Know your braking system and how it reacts on ice.

RCMP say an emergency road kit should also be kept in cars and other vehicles. 

These kits should include a blanket or sleeping bag, extra clothing, non-perishable food, a candle in a deep tin, waterproof matches, a first aid kit, a flashlight with extra batteries, a fire extinguisher, booster cables, an ice scraper, snow brush, paper towels or rags, a road map, a compass, road salt or kitty litter and a shovel.

Drivers should also make sure their cell phones are charged, police said.