The calendar may say fall, but winter driving conditions have already arrived. In Canada, winter driving conditions last almost half the year. Snow and ice make roads hazardous, increasing everyone’s workload. We need to concentrate and be more attentive, increasing the potential for fatigue. The safe operation of our vehicles is everyone’s business, be they professional drivers or seniors that only drive to the shops once a week. We need constantly be on the lookout for potential danger or difficulties. The word for winter driving is vigilance.
Snow and ice can make roads slippery and unsafe, but the low winter sun can be just as dangerous. The sun stays low to the horizon and can cause glare when driving due to the angle at which it hits your windshield. Glare can temporarily blind drivers and make it impossible to see the road ahead. Pedestrians and cyclists are particularly at risk and not as easy to see in winter light. Unfortunately, we don’t talk enough about the sun angle and glare when talking about driving safety. These are conditions that change so gradually that we don’t recognize them. Thankfully polarized sunglasses and a clean windshield can make a world of difference, as well as slowing down when the glare becomes blinding.
Top drivers constantly scan 12 to 20 seconds ahead while checking blindspots to the sides and rearview mirrors. They monitor potential trouble before they are on top of it, providing time to react.
Snow and ice change the time necessary to brake and steer away from trouble. Know the limitations of the moment and what you can or can not do if forced to avoid hazards.
Snow, ice, freezing rain, slush, visibility, and wind are in constant play through the winter months. We need to give them our utmost respect.
We must understand how black ice conditions develop or appreciate that fresh light snow can be just as dangerous as a blizzard. That slush can make steering impossible, or that trucks can become uncontrollable in freezing rain.
The constant danger of winter driving is the unknown. We can’t know what might be under a blanket of snow or a sheet of glare ice or what has been hidden by the glare of a setting sun.
It’s best to slow down and leave plenty of distance between vehicles.
Getting to your destination late is better than not getting there at all.