Keep calm and drive on: How to stay safe behind the wheel this winter

CBC took a spin with driving instructor Robert Westerbeek, who shared his best tips for staying safe at the wheel.

‘Above all don’t be distracted,’ driving expert gives advice for winter road conditions

Winter driving: How not to slip and slide

6 years ago
Duration 0:47
Keep calm and drive on! Here are some tips to help keep you safe during your winter commute.

This story was originally published Dec. 2, 2016.

With fresh snowfall lining the ground and the temperatures expected to plummet next week, driving experts say now is the time to brace yourself for winter driving.

CBC took a spin with driving instructor Robert Westerbeek, who shared his best tips for staying safe at the wheel.

Before you get in gear

Being prepared means having all the items necessary to get through winter conditions.

This includes:

  • Windshield washer fluid 
  • Snow brush and scraper
  • First aid kit (all year)
  • At least half a tank of fuel
  • Appropriate tires

"All seasons are good but winter tires are the best," said Westerbeek.

Giving adequate time to get to your destination is also key when preparing to drive in the winter.

"If it normally takes half an hour, maybe leave an extra half hour early." 
Robert Westerbeek is a driving instructor with Derek Brown's Academy of Driving. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Clear off the snow

It's a common sight on a Calgary winter morning — snow blanketing your entire vehicle. 

Westerbeek says it's important to clear the entire roof, the trunk, the hood and all the windows.

"If you're driving and you've got snow on the roof and it starts warming up like it does in Calgary, you're going to stop and all that snow is going to fly on top of your windshield and you're not going to be able to see anything."

On the road

Snow and ice on the road means driving habits immediately need to change.

  • Follow speed limit (or go slower)
  • Leave enough space between the car in front of you
  • Use your turn signal well in advance

"If your typical following space is two seconds, make it four seconds. You always want that space cushion because it's going to take longer to stop the car on snow-packed and icy roads."

Stay in control

"You don't want to get into the situation where you're skidding and now you have no control at all once your wheels lock," said Westerbeek.

"When you're panicked, that's when you are going to make mistakes."

Skidding and sliding happens. If it does, Westerbeek says to let up off the gas, brake very gently, look and steer toward a safe direction you need to go to avoid hitting anything.

"Above all don't be distracted. It's hard enough to drive and concentrate and watch out for other people."

With files from Monty Kruger


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