1. Get your vehicle ready for winter in the fall

1. Get your vehicle ready for winter in the fall

Winter weather is hard on your vehicle and its engine. Prepare for winter in the fall, by getting a complete check-up of your:

2. Install four matching winter tires

2. Install four matching winter tires

Check pressures often, especially before any highway driving. Properly inflated, high quality winter tires will give you best traction on winter roads and increase fuel efficiency.

A tire that has good pressure when checked in a warm garage will be under-inflated when it is below zero outside - because tire pressure goes down in the cold. That is why you should do your checks when the tires are cold. Use the maximum pressure amount shown in the owner's manual or on the doorframe as a guide, but never go above the pressure shown on the tire sidewall. Check your spare tire pressure regularly.

Since having four matching tires improves vehicle handling, don't mix tires with different tread patterns, internal construction and size.

3. Pack an emergency kit

3. Pack an emergency kit

The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) recommends you keep the following items in your trunk:

4. Learn and practice winter driving techniques before you need them

4. Learn and practice winter driving techniques before you need them

The danger of skidding is greatest when you are taken by surprise. Since not all vehicles respond in the same way to icy, slippery roads, learn how to handle your vehicle in all types of weather. Read the owner's manual to learn about your vehicle's braking system and tire traction. You may also consider taking a winter driving course.

Having the latest safety features on new vehicles and/or knowing how to handle your vehicle are good ways to keep control.

5. Plan your trip, check road and weather conditions

5. Plan your trip, check road and weather conditions

It's a good idea to visit www.weatheroffice.gc.ca for local weather reports, before you leave home. Environment Canada issues warnings when it expects blizzards, heavy snow, freezing rain or drizzle, cold snaps and winds.

Blizzards are the worst winter storms. They can last six hours or more and bring: falling, blowing and drifting snow; winds of 40 kilometres per hour or more; poor visibility; and temperatures below -10°C.

Snow and ice are more slippery at 0°C than at -20°C or below.

Watch for black ice at temperatures between +4°C and -4°C, where the road surface ahead looks black and shiny. It is often found on shaded areas of the road, bridges and overpasses long after the sun has come out.

6. Remove all snow from your vehicle before each trip

6. Remove all snow from your vehicle before each trip

See and be seen.

Remove all snow from your vehicle's hood, roof, windows and lights. Clear all windows of frost and fog. If visibility becomes poor, find a place to safely pull off the road as soon as you can. It's best to stop at a rest area or exit the roadway and take shelter in a building.

If you can't exit, pull off the road as far as you can. Get out from the passenger side, to reduce the risk of being hit by other drivers. If visibility is poor, put on your emergency flashers.

7. Give yourself extra travel time in bad weather

7. Give yourself extra travel time in bad weather

The safest strategy is to avoid driving in bad weather conditions.

Give yourself extra time for travel and, if weather is bad, wait for conditions to improve. Always tell someone where you are going, the route you plan to take and when you expect to arrive. If you don't arrive on time, and people are worried about your safety, they will know where to search for you. If driving becomes too risky, turn back or look for a safe place to stop until it is safe to drive. Make sure you have enough fuel. Try to keep the fuel tank at least half-full.

8. Avoid using cruise control on slippery roads

8. Avoid using cruise control on slippery roads

Under slick conditions, you need to be in complete control and monitoring road conditions. You're more likely to notice hydroplaning if you are not relying on the cruise control.

With some cars, it is possible that the wheels will actually spin faster when the cruise control is on and the car hits a slippery spot. When the tires make contact with firm road again, the car can skid or lose control.

On most cars, the cruise control is disengaged by tapping on the brake. In an emergency, this adds a fraction of a second to your response time as well as the risk of the braking action itself causing a loss of control on a slippery road.

9. Travel with a fully charged cell phone

9. Travel with a fully charged cell phone

Be prepared to make a call.

Take a fully charged cell phone with you. These are very useful in an emergency or if you need help. *911 is often a free call. But don't talk and drive. Let someone with you make the call, or pull over to a safe spot to place a call.

If you do a lot of winter driving in areas with poor reception, think about getting a citizen's band (CB) radio.

10. SLOW DOWN and WEAR your seatbelt

10. Slow down and wear your seatbelt

A good way to avoid skidding is to drive appropriately for road and weather conditions: slow down. Allow extra travel time and be very careful when you brake, change lanes, make turns and take curves.

Even careful and experienced drivers can skid, so be prepared. Skidding may be the result of panic braking when you are trying to avoid an obstacle on the road.

When worn correctly, seat belts save lives. Lap belts should be kept low and snug over the hips, while shoulder belts should always be worn across the chest. Learn more about seat belt safety. Children aged 12 and under should ride in the back seat, safely seated in a car seat or booster seat made for their size and age.