Toyota Tips for Driving Safe in the BC Winter Wonderland

Toyota Tips for Driving Safe in the BC Winter Wonderland

No other province compares to BC when it comes to navigating the highways in the winter. And while those roads lay claim to some of the most beautiful scenery in the entire continent, they are also among the most hazardous. Anyone who has driven along Crowsnest or Coquihalla Highway in the thick of winter knows what we're talking about. Ideally, you would not have to traverse over the snow and ice-caked roads at this time of the year, but with the holiday season aligning with the December solstice, many of you don't have much choice as you head to or from home to see friends, family, and loved ones for Christmas and beyond.

In our unwavering dedication to help drivers stay safe on the road, we have provided an easy-to-follow check list of precautions so that you are fully prepared for all that can befall you when the snow falls on the highways this otherwise wondrous season.

5 Steps to Safe Winter Driving on British Columbia Highways

1. Winterize Your Vehicle Before You Go

Your vehicle needs to be winterized from roof to tire and front bumper to back fender. What exactly does this mean? Follow the checklist below and you'll be good to go:

  • Replace standard windshield wipers with winter ones to handle heavy snow
  • Swap all-seasons for winter tires for better traction
  • Keep washer fluid full and store a backup container in the trunk
  • Prepare and load a winter safety kit that at the very least includes a) warm blankets b) mechanic gloves c) a small snow shovel d) a windshield/window scraper e) flares f) jumper cables g) nutrition bars h) bottled water i) a flashlight j) medical kit basics
  • Increase tire pressure at 3-5 psi higher than normal
  • Start every extended trip a full tank of gas
  • Test the rear window defroster
  • Have your automobile serviced by a trusted mechanic before a long winter drive

2. Drive Defensively

It doesn't matter how experienced you may be in driving BC's winter roads because the highways are packed with others who are not. They will be driving slow and with extreme caution, and if you're stuck behind them, you may feel a little frustrated. Resist the urge to ride their tail in the hopes that they will speed up. They are nervous enough as is, and by tailgating or honking you will rattle those nerves further, which will increase the risk of a motor vehicle accident, one that you will be involved in. 

If you don't have the option of a safe passing lane, simply fall back, maintain your cool, and keep a safe distance behind them. That means instead of heeding your dad's advice about the 2-second rule, shoot for 3 or 4 seconds. If the roads are really rough, and/or snow is falling, err on the side of caution and keep 5 seconds behind the driver in front of you.

In addition, follow all rules of defensive driving, and be considerate of those on the highway with you who may not be as comfortable out there in the mix. If you count yourself amongst the less experienced lot, don't let anyone else on the road "bully" you into thinking you need to speed up or drive more aggressively. 

It's always a good idea to leave yourself more time for your road trip in the winter, advice that will help you maintain your defensive driving schedule. For instance, a journey from New Westminster BC to the Okanagan Valley may normally take you four hours, but in the winter, that trek may last anywhere from 6 to 7 depending upon conditions. Leave with that expectation and you won't feel the need for speed during a time of the year where speed has no place.

3. Turning Into the Slide

What's the one big concern most people have about driving on the highway in the winter? Black ice, or any ice for that matter. It's pretty scary to hit that patch of ice and feel as if you have lost control of your vehicle as it skids and begins to spin. If this happens, remember the rule. Remain calm, focus on the road, ease up on the accelerator, and steer steadily but smoothly in the direction of the skid, otherwise known as "turning into the slide". Fight the instinct to brake, as this will only make matters much worse.

4. Avoid Common (and Less Common) Driver Distractions

Distracted driving is one of the most common causes of motor vehicle accidents in British Columbia. The potential for distracted-driver incidents increases in the winter when highway conditions are more treacherous. Make a firm decision to keep your focus.

That means no texting, no eating, no sipping, or even adjusting dashboard area settings while driving. It doesn't matter how many bells and whistles your auto-tech and auto-infotainment system has, leave them to the front passenger to manage. Even making hands-free phone calls is problematic as the conversation you are about to have is a distraction in itself, and can make the difference when you need to make a split second decision on a snowy or icy road. On that latter note, also keep conversations with fellow passengers to an absolute minimum, as that to can contribute to delayed defensive reactions while driving. If you are driving alone, and need to make a call, or grab a handful of trail mix to satisfy a rumbling tummy, simply pull over at a safe rest stop and do so. 

5. Choose a Vehicle that Can Manage Driving BC Roads in the Winter

The last step is most certainly not the least. If you plan on taking more than a few winter trips when living in BC, you will want to commit to a vehicle that will keep you and your entire household comfortable and safe no matter what is going on outside of those four doors and rear lift gate hatch. How do you know which vessel will accomplish that? Thankfully we have put together our list of best family vehicles for winter driving 2017-18, right here for your convenience.

If you're in the market for a vehicle that will help you manage BC's roads all year long, especially in the winter, we encourage you to contact Westminster Toyota today.