By Lori Straus
As I write this, it’s 9°C in the second week of December in my city in Southwestern Ontario. All my hard-earned shovelling is being erased. That makes it hard to believe that it’s still winter. But it is. If you haven’t done so yet, do it immediately: assemble your winter driving kit, even if you drive only in the city. One major traffic jam and you’ll wish you had those extra protein bars packed for you and your family.
Start With Winter Tires and a Maintenance Check-Up
We know they’re out there: the drivers who believe that driving skill trumps winter tires. Sadly, that’s not the way science works. Winter tires grip snow and ice stronger than all-seasons. Improve your chances of avoiding an accident in the first place by having winter tires put on if you haven’t done so already.
Second, take your car in for a maintenance check. Snow, ice, slush, and everything in between can affect your vehicle’s performance and also damage it. Make sure your car handles well, that you can see, and that your fluids are changed. Winter driving conditions can exacerbate any existing problems.
Plan Your Route
Whiteout conditions and accidents can cause road closures. Holiday and weekend traffic can cause delays. With apps from Google Maps to Waze, you can now see ahead of time where traffic congestion is heavy. Plan your route accordingly.
In addition, keep your tank at least half full at all times. The cold temperatures outside can cause condensation in your gas tank. The water can then drip to the bottom of your tank and freeze, blocking the flow of gas.
Lastly, fully charge your phone. Although it’s possible to get stuck in a location that has no cellular service, the chances of that happening in the city are slim. However, you won’t be able to call anyone on your cell if the battery is dead.
Pack Your Winter Driving Kit
Pack the following items in your trunk:
- Antifreeze, de-icer, and windshield washer fluid
- Jumper cables and a tow rope
- Sand, salt, or non-clumping cat litter
- Warning light or road flares
- Fire extinguisher
Keep the following items safely stored in your vehicle:
- Food and drink: energy bars and bottles of water (replace the water every six months and store them out of the sun)
- Extra blankets, clothing, shoes/boots, and hand-and-foot warmers
- Ice scraper, small shovel, and a snowbrush
- A whistle and reflective vest
- First-aid kit with seatbelt cutter
- Wind-up flashlight
- Candle in a deep can and matches
- Roadmaps and a copy of your emergency plan
Remember that cold temperatures affect battery performance, which includes the battery of your cell phone. In addition, you may not have a cell phone signal. Packing roadmaps and a copy of your emergency plan will help you access the information you need if you can’t call out.
Stay Safe This Winter
With heated cars and seats, it’s sometimes easy to forget how vulnerable we can be in the winter: frostbite and hypothermia are very real, as are several other cold-related injuries to the body. Ensure your car is ready for the winter, plan your route, and double-check your winter driving kit. If an accident happens—even if it’s just a breakdown—you’ll be able to deal with the situation better if you’re not worried about the basics, like staying warm.