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Do you really need to be out on the road during a winter storm?

Published February 7, 2013
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The meteorologists and safety experts are warning Ontarians of a major winter storm headed our way. Thursday night and Friday appear to be the most affected periods.

It seems as if each time we get whacked by Mother Nature, motorists tend to forget everything they have been told when it comes to winter driving. The last brush with winter resulted in a 70-car pileup on Highway 401 and several other fender benders throughout the GTA.

More: How to survive the dreaded whiteout

More: Why do motorists still ‘drive blind’ like this in winter?

The OPP offers the following tips for those who have to travel during the storm period:

• Reduce speed and drive to the weather conditions you are experiencing.

• Make sure that you give yourself extra time to arrive safely at your destination.

• Drive with full lighting system on. This will help you see and to be seen by other motorists.

• Fill your windshield washer up and carry extra in case you run out.

• Travel with a full tank of gas.

• Ensure that your vehicle is clear of all snow (including the roof area, trunk, hood and all of the windows).

• Have a fully charged cellphone in case you become stranded.

• Have a roadside safety kit that consists of a warm blanket, a winter hat, pair of gloves, a candle for heat (in case your car breaks down), matches, a flashlight, snow shovel, dry food that will not freeze for nourishment and a small metal can that can be used to melt snow (remember, bottled water will freeze).

• If you become involved in a collision, stay in it and don’t walk around on any highway or roadway.

To add to this list, motorists should rethink if they need to be out at all.

If you can postpone or cancel your drive, do so. Not only does this greatly reduce your chances of being involved in a crash, it makes it much easier for the snow plow crews to clear the roads if there are fewer vehicles on them. This also means the roads can be cleared sooner.

If you must be on the roads, watch for whiteouts. If the vehicles in front of you disappears into a whiteout, consider the option of not following them into it. It can be safer to pull well off the road and wait for the conditions to clear. If you find yourself in a whiteout, watch for the natural tendency for drivers to speed up as your brain loses all references to speed. This phenomenon is a result of your brain not being able to see objects moving past your vehicle which tricks your brain into thinking your vehicle is not moving.

Watch for ice building up in the tire tracks. As vehicles compress the snow it will turn to ice. Sometimes it is better to move out of the tire tracks if there is ice there.

Don’t drive wearing heavy winter coats and boots. This will affect how well you control your vehicle. Bulky winter coats will reduce your steering ability, cause the driver to fatigue quicker and means the seat belts are not being worn properly. Heavy winter boots can cause the driver to step on both the brake and gas pedal at the same time and reduces pedal feel which is critical to control.

Most importantly – slow down! No one is impressed by someone driving fast in adverse conditions. Drivers of transport trucks, pick-up trucks and SUVs need to slow down too.

Remember the saying: Anyone can drive fast. Smart drivers know when not to.

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