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Drive Safe this Winter

January 5, 2017
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Winter is often referred to as “the most wonderful time of the year” and it’s easy to see why.  There is so much that happens over the winter season that fills our hearts with joy and happiness.  Winter brings the holidays, which bring family together.  If you are a keener for the outdoors, winter brings a multitude of activities such as skating, skiing, snowshoeing or hockey at your local ODR.

Winter does have its downsides though (I could hear the groans from some of you in the first paragraph).  Among them are shorter days, temperatures cold enough to make you ask yourself why you live somewhere it hurts to breathe and the worst of all – winter driving conditions.  The roads during winter can turn even the shortest trips into a white-knuckled grand adventure. 

Sometimes the best course of action during dicey winter weather is to just stay home, but if you have to get somewhere and don’t have a snowmobile readily available, consider these tips to ensure everyone enjoys a safe winter season on our roads.

Before you hit the road

Take your vehicle for a check up: Get a maintenance inspection before the snow flies to ensure the engine, brakes, oil, belts, hoses, and your battery are all in good working order.  Double check your windshield wipers to make sure they can make it through the season.

Keep an eye out: Ensure that your defroster and vehicle heat are working properly; keep your washer fluid topped up; and don’t let your fuel gage fall to the empty line, ensure you always have a half a tank – if you ever get stranded on the road this will be crucial.

Invest in winter tires: There is a reason why winters tires are mandatory in some regions of the country: they work.  Make sure your tires are properly inflated throughout the season as tires will lose pressure as the temperature dips farther down.  With MPI’s winter tire program there is no reason not to have winter tires.

Keep things clear: Have you ever seen that person looking through a tiny section of their window that has been scraped by a credit card? Yea – don’t be that person. Also, keep an eye out for snow/ice on your vehicle after a snowfall – this can become a hazard on the highway if it flies off.

Pack an emergency kit: You may never think you will end up in a ditch stranded, but you owe it to yourself to be prepared for the scenario.  Include a warm blanket, flashlight with extra batteries, gloves, a hat, warm socks, flares, a shovel, non perishable food, water, and a first aid kit.

Be smart behind the wheel

Leave space: Rear end collisions are the most common type of collision on Canadian roads.  It is especially important to increase following distances in winter as the distance to come to a full stop is drastically increased.  Leave at least 8 to 10 seconds in between your vehicle and the one ahead of you. 

Use your mirrors: Changing lanes presents another risk for drivers especially when visibility is reduced. Check your mirrors at regular intervals and double check your blind spot before making a lane change.

Take it slow:  It’s not a race!  The road may seem clear but if you have to come to a sudden stop there may be a patch of black ice you can’t see.  Driving slower will make hitting another car in front of you less likely. 

Stay focused: The road always needs your undivided attention.  Put the phone down, stop day dreaming and focus at the task at hand.  Never drive impaired.

Use courtesy and common sense: Obey the rules of the road; be respectful to other drivers and pedestrians; turn your lights on for visibility; don’t pass snow plows; keep in mind that bridges, ramps, and overpasses are likely to freeze first.

Don’t be afraid to get out and enjoy this beautiful thing we call winter in Manitoba.  Just keep in mind a little planning and preparation go a long way in making your commute a little less stressful.  We are all trying to get somewhere going nowhere fast so enjoy the ride!

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