Coping with the season’s first snowfall this long weekend

  • Alberta's first major snowfall coincides with the Thanksgiving long weekend.
  • For those travelling on highways this weekend, being prepared before you go is essential.
  • Motorists need to be sure they are driving to conditions.

Whether you’re on the road this long weekend to connect with family over turkey or just taking advantage of the extra day to get out for some sightseeing, the conditions this time of year can change on a dime. This is the perfect time of year to reacquaint yourself with safe winter driving techniques and tips from Ron Wilson of AMA Driver Education. 

Before you go

  • Winterize your car. Even if you’re not planning a road trip, check your tires (including the spare), battery, belts, hoses, anti-freeze, brakes, heater, defroster and windshield wipers.
  • Bring your cell phone and make sure it’s fully charged.
  • Check the road conditions before you leave or download the free AMA Road Reporter App for up-to-date information as you travel.
  • Pack an emergency road kit. With a few exceptions to the items listed here, you can find ready-to-take-home emergency road kits at any AMA centre.
  • Read more tips here on what to do during your trip, what to do if you’re stranded and what should be in your emergency road kit.

When you’re on the go

  • Drive to the Conditions

The posted speed limit refers only to ideal circumstances. So if it’s snowing while you’re driving down Hwy. 2, you probably shouldn’t be driving 110 km/h. The more conditions degrade, the slower you should go.

  • Scan the Road Ahead

In the city you want to look 12 to 15 seconds ahead (just over one city block). On the highway, look about 20-30 seconds ahead.

  • Adjust Your Following Distance

“It’s not about car lengths,” Wilson says. It’s about timing. “In dry conditions in a 50 km/h zone, we advise you stay two-to-three seconds back. On snowy streets, make that four to six. Consider leaving even more room if the roads are icy.”

  • Turn On Your Lights

Snow and mud decrease your vehicle’s visibility. Make a habit of turning on your lights during the day, and ensuring they are clean.

  • Watch What Your Wear

Winter clothes can be bulky and restrictive, which creates another potential distraction when you’re driving. Make sure your winter clothes aren’t hindering your driving performance while you’re driving.

  • Use Your Brakes Safely

Ignore what you’ve heard about pumping the brakes in slippery conditions. For vehicles with ABS brakes, use a firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal and don’t let up. For non-ABS vehicles, use a threshold braking technique. Brake to the point just before wheels lock up, and if they do start to, just ease up on brake slightly and reapply.

Even the most experienced drivers can be taken off guard at times. Winter is a force to be reckoned with, but you can apply safe winter driving habits by following these expert tips.

Are you concerned about your winter driving skills? Consider taking an Online Winter Driving course to get comfortable and familiar with emergency maneuvers.