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Winter driving safety tips from AMA

Experts share tips on winter driving.
LN-Winter Driving web
Winter driving can be scary and unforgiving. AMA has shared tips in hopes of making winter driving safer for Albertans. File Photo/Rocky View Weekly

While Albertans are walking in a winter wonderland these days, drivers are braving the snowy streets.

If winter driving has motorists down as they kick off 2022, AMA has some tips to get them safely through the winter, beginning with keeping their eyes on the road. According to the AMA website, it is important to be scanning the roads 12 to 15 seconds ahead while within city limits.

“If the pavement looks shiny and black instead of grey-white, slow down,” stated the web page, as this is an indicator of black ice, which occurs when temperatures fall between 4 C and -4 C. 

It is also important to adjust speed in poor conditions, particularly in known icy areas, such as on bridges and overpasses. Reducing speed and increasing following distance between vehicles gives more time for braking and avoiding potential collisions. 

However, AMA warns to be gentle with the brakes to avoid losing control of vehicles on icy streets. 

“Ignore what you’ve heard about pumping the brakes in slippery conditions,” warned AMA. 

Contrary to popular belief, drivers should apply the brakes just until the wheels start to lock, unless the vehicle has ABS brakes. In that case, AMA’s recommendation is to “use a firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal and don’t let up.”

If drivers are unsure what type of brakes their vehicle has, they are encouraged to read their vehicle’s operating manual – most can be found online if a print version is not available – as this information could prevent loss of control of the vehicle. 

To set up for success, drivers should check their route using Google Maps or the AMA Road Report. Knowing what to expect ahead of time will allow time to make alternate plans if necessary. If a trip is essential, motorists will at the very least be prepared for the conditions.

While much of safe winter driving is due to being alert and adjusting speed and distance to the conditions, there are also steps drivers can take prior to initiating their journeys to ease some stress.

For starters, clearing all of the snow off of the vehicle and allowing the appropriate amount of time to warm the car, to thaw the windows of ice allows for greater field of vision. A greater field of vision allows more time to adjust to unexpected obstacles when driving, such as pedestrians or another vehicle losing control.

AMA also suggests that drivers choose clothing that doesn’t restrict movement. 

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

Finally, to keep everyone safe, AMA states it is important to drive with the vehicle’s lights on. Visible rear lights will support drivers in being aware of others on the road, as well as leaving appropriate distance. In snowy conditions, it can be difficult – even in the daylight – to see a car ahead.