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The 10 dumbest things drivers do in winter

Driving.ca logo Driving.ca 5 days ago Lorraine Sommerfeld
a car covered in snow© Provided by Driving.ca

We’re halfway through November, and winter is coming. Chances are you’ll find yourself behind the wheel at some point between now and April. So, for the sake of your sanity (and everyone else’s), Lorraine Sommerfeld is here to explain 10 driving mistakes you should avoid making at all costs this winter.

Video: Ford’s SafeCap designed to stop drivers from sleeping at the wheel (provided by Autoblog)

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Why on the road at all? If a bad storm is in the forecast or has already landed, you don’t need to go to the mall, the beer store or your friend’s place anyway. Stay home. If you can work from home, do that. If you can reschedule appointments, do that. Driving in bad conditions should only be a necessary evil, not a challenge you accept.

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No winter tires? Sigh. If you drive in Canada, with very few exceptions, you need winter tires. When you purchase a new car, roll the cost of a second set of tires into the price of the car. Even entry-level winters are better than three-season tires; if you look for used tires, pay close attention to the age as well as the wear. If you have determined you are too good a driver to need winters, consider all the idiots around you and that one time you will be forced to brake suddenly because they can’t. You don’t get to make all the calls on our roads.

Driving like an idiot because you have winter tires on. You’re not all of a sudden SuperCar. You’re not Mad Max, even if you have a spiffy SUV with expensive winter boots. You still brake the same, so while you’re flying down the highway leaving the peasants behind, know if you’re over your head, there is a ditch ahead with your name on it.

Not clearing your snow. You hop in your car, flip the wipers and can see perfectly, right? No. That muffin top you left on top of your car is a disaster for everyone in your wake. Give yourself extra time – sometimes a lot – to clear your entire car. Use an extended brush, get a step stool if you have to. Clear every headlight and taillight. Clear the whole roof. A great brush makes a great Christmas gift.

Not switching on your lights. The daytime running lights argument continues to rage, but even with government legislation set to kick in September 2020, that will leave years of cars driving around with dark rear ends. Dangerous all year round, it’s particularly lethal in our long dark winters. Just switch on your full lighting system, every time you drive. Every time. See where you’re going, and let other drivers see you.

If you rely on the automatic setting, make sure it’s always set and anyone who drives your car is checking as well. I watched a car on the highway cut in front of another in the passing lane the other day, and darken his own rear end to signal to the car behind that only his DRLs were on. Nope. Didn’t get it. People running on the DRLs aren’t aware, and we have no signal. Though perhaps if those around you are giving you loony tune hand signs and flashing their lights, consider something is up.

Driving in big fat boots. This is often overlooked, because what might be safest for walking in our winters can be the most deadly for driving. Especially in smaller cars and more streamlined CUVs, the pedals are closer together. Ideally, proper driving shoes are thin soled and flexible; the opposite of Sasquatch winter boots. It’s ridiculously easy to catch a pedal with the side of a wide boot, just like in summer it’s too easy to have a flip flop catch. Cars never go out of control, regardless of what some headlines would have you believe. Drivers lose control. Period.

Leaving your car on the street for the plow. Just, no.

No roadside assistance. Most new cars have a program, but check when it expires. It’s not usually the length of your loan, or even the warranty. Make arrangements and call CAA before you need them. It’s also another awesome Christmas gift for those you love.

Not updating your wiper blades and windshield washer fluid. Next to tires, your ability to see is probably the most important part of your drive. Don’t compromise safety for something often overlooked; they should be changed out annually, at least. Don’t forget your rear blade, if you have one. And with temperatures that go up and down like a toilet seat at a mixed party, keep your washer fluid topped up. That magnesium and calcium chloride that’s used to keep you safe on the roads is also super sticky and can make a mess of your windshield.

Driving too fast. This should be the whole list, actually. Every news cast covering snarls and collisions and that first big bang up – you know the one – will feature cops saying one thing over and over: Folks were driving too fast for conditions. There is no such thing as an accident, even in a huge weather event. Driver error is at fault. Slow down. Then slow down some more, or go back to number one on the list.

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