Safety Checklist for Winter Driving in Your Vehicle


When the cold weather and before the snow appears, it is time to winterize your motor vehicle and be prepared for the worst.  The worst generally means when there is a blizzard and your stuck in your vehicle somewhere, unable to move. Motorists die every year in winter conditions, usually of hypothermia, either because their not ready for the unforeseen or they have not winterized their vehicle or a combination of both.

During the winter, before you leave home you should have a good idea about the weather conditions that you will be confronted with. In Canada you can check the WeatherOffice or in the U.S. you can check the National Weather Service for the weather conditions facing you.

It goes without saying, that you must ensure that you perform regular maintenance on your motor vehicle. Preventative maintenance will go a long way to prevent unexpected problems with your vehicle during the winter driving conditions (look at your battery, you need it to start your vehicle and if you try to turn over the engine too many times you may possible harm your alternator – does it need to be topped up or replaced, are the posts clean and ready for the winter?):

    have you checked your spark plugs – do they need to be replaced?
    have you checked your motor oil – is it clean or does it need to be topped up or replaced?
    have you checked your brake oil – does it need to be topped up or replaced?
  • Winter Tires – there is no safe substitute for four (4) winter tires on your motor vehicle, during the winter conditions on the roads.
  • Brakes – winter tires may assist you in stopping, but you ultimately rely upon your brakes to do this function. Check your brakes, and if they need to be replaced, replace them.
  • Windshield Wipers – change your windshield wipers. You will be using them a great deal and want to ensure that the wipers you are using will be in good enough shape to do the job that the winter demands of them. Some motorists, as a preventative measure, purchase two (2) pairs of wipers (one to replace the worn out wipers and an extra pair to place in trunk, just in case) before the winter weather conditions set in.
  • Windshield Washer Fluid – ensure that your reservoir is topped up at all times, especially before a long trip on the highway. Always keeps an extra bottle or two in your trunk during the winter. You will need it, especially if you are driving on the highway.
  • Antifreeze – make sure that you top up your antifreeze and that you only ever use antifreeze and not water as a substitute – it doesn’t work and your radiator and engine will be unforgiving if you use anything other than antifreeze. It also helps if you had previously flushed the coolant out of your radiator.
  • As well as having a motor vehicle in tip top shape in winter conditions, it is important to carry a Winter Emergency Kit with you, in your vehicle. This Winter Emergency Kit should contain the following:

    Winter Emergency Kit:

    • a cell-phone, fully charged with an extra fully charged battery
    • coins for a landline telephone
    • energy bars
    • flares or a reflective triangle and a distress sign
    • flashlight, with a set of extra batteries
    • well insulated jumper cables
    • small transistor radio, with fresh battery
    • a fully supplied first aid kit
    • small collapsible shovel
    • an ice scraper and snow brush
    • a bag of kitty litter to be used for traction in the event
      that your stuck
    • waterproof matches, lighter and candles
      To Protect Your Body from the Cold:
    • sleeping bag or blanket
    • winter boots
    • winter coat
    • winter had and gloves
    • reusable heat packs and heat wraps

    Update: December 10, 2010 – Snow-trapped motorists in Ireland who deserted cars face 80 pound clamp fine

    Update: December 14, 2010 – 15 killed by snowstorms in the US

    Update: December 16, 2010 – Snow-swept Ontario highway fully reopened, motorists advised to use caution.

    A snowstorm trapped some 300 motorists in their vehicles overnight on highway 402. The military, police and volunteers helped 237 people from their vehicles, where they were trapped.

    A 41-year-old man died of exposure, only 50 metres away from the snow drift that his vehicle was stuck in.

    Update: December 18, 2010 – Family of man who died in snowstorm cautions drivers

    The family of a man who died of exposure in the snowstorm that trapped hundreds of motorists on a southwestern Ontario highway hopes his death will remind others to stay safe in harsh weather.

    Neeland Rumble’s family says the 41-year-old had a storm safety kit in his car but left it behind when he tried to walk to work after the vehicle got stuck in a snowdrift.

    Update: December 18, 2010 – Family hopes death of man in snowstorm will warn others

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