British Columbia

Winter driving tips: How to make it safely to your destination in the snow

If you plan on driving this winter, take the time to read these safety tips from a Prince George, B.C., driving instructor.

Check your vehicle, check the roads and maybe pack some kitty litter to be safe

'You need more time to stop, you need more time to start,' says driving instructor Chris Schulz, who has almost two decades of experience driving in central B.C. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

If you have to get behind the wheel this winter, it's important to take your time and know a few tricks to keep yourself, and others, safe on snowy or frozen roads. 

Chris Schulz, who has been a professional driving instructor for almost two decades in Prince George, B.C., joined CBC's Daybreak North Monday to share his expertise on how to navigate through snow and ice. 

Here is a checklist of 11 things you can do to to make your winter driving a safe experience:

1. Stay home. When winter conditions hit, the safest option is just not to drive at all. Schulz says when there is deep snow and roads are unplowed he will cancel his driving classes. "If the roads are that terrible, the safest thing to do is not be on them," Schulz advises.

2. Slow down. 

3. Leave space. Schulz says it is critical to leave extra room between your vehicle and the vehicle in front to provide a buffer or "escape space" if the vehicle behind you fails to stop. 

4. Manoeuvre safely. If your vehicle starts to slide or fishtail, Schulz says drivers should ease their foot off the accelerator and steer gently in the direction you want to go. Don't brake suddenly — it can make the situation worse. 

5. Rock out. No, this does not mean turn up the radio. When a vehicle is stuck in snow, drivers can "rock" their car by gently moving forward in drive and then backwards in reverse repeatedly to try and gain traction and drive out of the situation.

6. Build traction. Keep kitty litter or gravel in your vehicle. If you get stuck in snow, pour either of them in the path of your wheels to get traction. In a pinch, some drivers use their car mats, Schulz said.

7. Check the treads. It is required by law in B.C. that vehicles be equipped with winter tires on select highways between Oct. 1 and April 30. 

8. Survival gear. Stock your vehicle with extra food and water, blankets, tire chains and a cellphone charger if you are planning on driving over mountain passes.

9. Watch out for the plow. Approach snowplows and sanding trucks with caution and avoid overtaking them if possible. These vehicles can throw up snow and debris that can impede vision and damage vehicles.

10. Vehicle inspection. Before you drive, check your battery, as well as your gas and windshield fluid levels. Make sure all your lights are working and spray lock lubricant in your locks to stop them from freezing up, if necessary.

11. Emergency help. If you get in trouble, save your battery by turning off unnecessary lights, heaters, radios, defrosters and accessories. Stay with your vehicle, if possible, until help arrives. 

With files from Daybreak North

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