Well, we’ve had a couple of tastes of winter so far this season. How did you do as a driver? Did you stay indoors and wait for the roads to clear or did you tackle it full on? It’s no secret that driving in winter weather is different than other seasons, but do we deal with it properly?

Winter driving starts at home and starts before you get into your vehicle. In some cases, it even starts the day before it snows. Each night before you go to sleep, check out your local weather forecast for the next day. See if snow or freezing rain will happen overnight. If so, set that alarm to get up earlier than normal so you can get dig out and clear off that vehicle. And remember to give yourself some extra time because we all know the snow plow only goes by after we’ve shoveled our driveway – or so it seems. By giving yourself more time, you won’t take chances while driving to your destinations because you’re running late.

Take the time to properly clear off your vehicle before driving away. This includes the roof, hood, trunk, all windows, mirrors and lights. Try to get as much snow off the vehicle as you can. Since the seating compartment gets warm as you drive, any snow left on the roof can loosen and blow off behind you causing a distraction or damage to the vehicles around you. It can also slide onto the front or rear windows when you’re braking or accelerating causing you reduced visibility. Proper visibility out of every window and mirror gives you a better chance to avoid collisions.

To ensure the driver behind can see your brake lights use a squeegee from the service station to clean them off. Ensure you clean off the headlights too. Since the roads are slushy, all that slush ends up on your lenses which reduces the intensity of your lights. Having a squeegee in your vehicle can be a good addition to your winter driving survival kit. If you don’t have a kit, here’s what it should include, besides the squeegee:
ice scraper with brush, shovel, extra washer fluid, blanket, extra gloves, a mixture of sand/salt or kitty litter for traction, booster cables, flashlight, blanket and candle.

For the most part, you can buy a kit like this for your vehicle, but you could also put one together with items from home. Now, here’s something else to think about…what about a survival kit for you, the driver? If you get stranded anywhere during a winter storm it’s a good idea to have extra socks, hats and gloves, non-perishable food items, drinking water and toilet paper. Safe driving this winter!

-Scott Marshall is Director of Training for Young Drivers of Canada and started in road safety in 1988. He was a judge on the first 3 seasons of Canada’s Worst Driver on Discovery Network. Scott started writing columns on driving for his community paper in 2005. Since then his columns have been printed in several publications including newspaper, magazines and various web-sites. You can visit his own blog at