Canadian drivers know winters can be challenging to drive in, and for those who fail to prepare for winter driving and adapt accordingly, a ticket could be in the forecast that could put a further chill on the season and heat up your car insurance rate.
Winter driving conditions are unique. Road and weather conditions can change abruptly. Being prepared to drive in the wintertime can help you avoid being charged with a traffic violation. Here are a few things to do before shifting to drive:
Have a clear view of the road
You need to be able to see out of your windows. Having a clear view of what's in front, beside, and behind you while driving is at the very core of safe driving. However, not everyone takes the time needed to ensure that their vehicle is ready for the road ahead.
While the actual offence may vary by province, you can expect a ticket for something along the lines of an "obstructed view" if you have not fully cleaned the snow and ice off your vehicle's windows and mirrors.
For example, section 74 of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act states you must be able to see clearly out the front, driver and passenger sides, and rear windows of your vehicle. The fine for failing to clear snow and ice off a vehicle’s windows in Ontario is $110.
Being a "peephole" driver will certainly capture the attention of police, but it doesn’t have to be nearly this bad for an officer to issue you a ticket.
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Brush off your entire vehicle
Your windows and mirrors are not the only parts of the car you should be clearing of ice and snow; your roof, hood, lights, and signals need to be cleaned off too. And don’t forget your licence plate, because you can get a ticket for an obstructed licence plate if it's not clearly visible.
Ease up on the gas pedal
Posted speed limits designate the fastest speed at which you can safely travel in optimal road conditions. When the weather is foul, or the roads are slick and icy, you should lower your speed for safety’s sake and to avoid a ticket. When traction and visibility is reduced, your speed needs to reduce too, and not just because you risk getting a speeding ticket.
In Alberta, for example, you are legally required to drive according to road conditions and can be ticketed if you don’t.
In Ontario, there’s no specific ticket for failing to drive safely according to the weather or road conditions, but you could be charged with careless driving if a police officer thinks you’re driving without "due care and attention or without reasonable consideration" for others.
Play it safe and travel at a speed that takes into account the weather outside because "ice and snow means take it slow".
Useful tips for driving in the winter
Now that the cold, snowy weather is upon us, you need to take a bit of time to prepare yourself and your vehicle every time you intend to drive. Here are a few additional ways to do that:
- Keep a safe distance between yourself and the vehicle in front of you.
- Drive with your headlights on (even during daylight) so drivers in front and behind you can see your vehicle clearly.
- Plan your route ahead of time and be aware of the weather and road conditions along that route.
- Have winter tires installed. Winter tires may be the most underrated safety feature on any vehicle. Winter tire treads are designed to grip snowy, icy roads better than all-season tires.
- Don’t use your vehicle’s cruise control function in wintry conditions.
- Keep back from snowplows and don’t attempt to pass one.
- When in doubt, don’t go out. If you are uncertain about the driving conditions and don’t need to drive, don’t.
- Take off heavy winter coats to allow freer arm movement when steering your vehicle, try to wear thin-soled shoes so you can “feel” the gas and brake pedals, and wear leather gloves instead of cotton or wool ones since leather won’t slip on the steering wheel.
Staying safe on the road and avoiding getting a ticket or into a collision can also help you maintain a clean driving record and keep your car insurance premium as low as possible.