The dumbest things drivers do in win­ter

For the sake of ev­ery­one’s san­ity, avoid mak­ing these mis­takes on the road this win­ter

North Bay Nugget - - DRIVING - Lor­raine Som­mer­feld

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), here are driv­ing mis­takes you should avoid mak­ing this win­ter.

Why be 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.

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 win­ter tires 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 win­ter tires, 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 Su­per Car. 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 that if you’re in over your head, there is a ditch ahead with your name on it.

Not clear­ing off the snow

You hop in your car, flip the wipers and can see per­fectly, right? Wrong. That muf­fin top you left on the roof of your car is a dis­as­ter for ev­ery­one in your wake. Give your­self the ex­tra time to clear off your en­tire car. Use an ex­tended brush and get a step-stool if you have to. Clear every head­light, tail light and sig­nal light. 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. The driver be­hind didn’t get it. Peo­ple run­ning on the DRLS aren’t aware, and we have no sig­nal to tell them. Per­haps if those around you are giv­ing you loony-tune hand signs and flash­ing their lights, con­sider that 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 where 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.

Go­ing with­out 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. Buy­ing this pro­tec­tion is 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 news­cast cov­er­ing snarls and col­li­sions and that first big bang-up po­lice of­fi­cers 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 No. 1 on this list and just stay home.

Post­media File

There is no such thing as an ac­ci­dent, even in a huge weather event. Driver er­ror is at fault.

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