Driving safely in winter

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Winter driving tips

  • Be alert and well rested when getting behind the wheel and always wear your seat belt
  • Poor visibility in winter can make driving challenging so it's important to be vigilant and alert when driving
  • Many winter holidays include parties that serve alcohol or cannabis products. If you consume any of these products, do not drive. Only drive if you're sober  
  • Sometimes, heavy coats and jackets can feel bulky and too warm in a car, especially during long trips. If you or any of your passengers remove their jacket, remember that you still need to wear a seat belt at all times. It's the law
  • Bulky winter coats and snow suits may not work well when it comes to your child's car seat. Instead, make sure your child is wearing lighter winter clothing so they can be properly buckled in their car seat with a snug harness and bring an extra blanket to place over them to keep them warm

See and be seen

  • Before you start driving, make sure to remove all the snow from your vehicle including on the hood, roof, windows, and lights. Clear all windows of frost and fog. This can help you see better on the road and prevent snow from sliding onto your windshield or on to other cars while you drive. It could also save you a ticket, since some provinces will issue fines to drivers that don't clear all the snow off their vehicles
  • If driving becomes too risky, look for a safe place to stop until it's safe to drive again. Find a place to safely pull off the road as soon as you can. It's best to stop at a rest area or exit the roadway and take shelter in a building
  • If visibility becomes really poor, turn on your headlights to make your vehicle easier to see

Adapt your driving

  • Match your speed to the road and weather conditions
  • To reduce any risk of accidents, avoid passing other vehicles when weather and road conditions are poor. When you drive on a snow-covered road, there may be more snow or slush between lanes, which can make changing lanes harder

Use winter tires

Transport Canada recommends using winter tires on all wheels for driving in cold, snowy or icy conditions. They provide better traction than all-season tires because they:

  • are made of softer rubber, and
  • have more appropriate tread design

Learn more about using winter tires.

Safe braking

Proper braking is important to safe winter driving. Since it takes longer to stop on a slippery road, you should:

  • leave more distance than normal between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you
  • pay close attention to the road – as far ahead as you can
  • make sure that you don't release the brake pedal when the vehicle is out of control. Focus on steering with the brake pedal applied hard


Even careful and experienced drivers can skid, so be prepared. Skidding can be caused by panic braking when you're trying to avoid an obstacle on the road. To reduce skidding in bad weather, you should:

  • slow down. Allow extra travel time and be very careful when you brake, change lanes, make turns, and take curves
  • put more distance between you and the vehicle in front of you
  • avoid forceful braking or sudden, jerking movement of the wheel
  • read the owner's manual to learn about your vehicle's braking system and tire traction

If the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) comes on, this means your vehicle is trying to prevent skidding and loss of control. Slow down and drive more cautiously. ESC is standard equipment on vehicles manufactured from 2012 onwards. When the vehicle begins to skid, ESC applies the brakes to one or more wheels, or reduces engine power, or both, to help keep the vehicle under control. If you get stuck, turn off your ESC.

In extreme weather don't use cruise control. Don't rely on other driver assistance technologies, like blind spot monitoring or lane keeping assistance, as they may not work in bad weather. Review your owner's manual to understand the systems' abilities and limits.

Be prepared to call for help

Keep your phone fully charged and have a charging cable in your vehicle just in case. If you're in an emergency, call 911.

Snowmobile safety

Safe snowmobiling requires you to be well-prepared for different conditions and situations, and know the rules that apply in your area. The rules for registering and operating your snowmobile vary across provinces, territories, and municipalities.

For more information, visit your provincial or territorial transportation ministry and consult your municipality for specific bylaws that may apply in your area.

Before exploring the outdoors on your snowmobile, remember to:

  • wear proper safety gear, including a helmet
  • maintain your snowmobile well
  • learn your snowmobile's controls and proper driving techniques
  • take a snowmobile safety training course, if possible
  • understand proper trail rules and etiquette
  • study your route and know about potential hazards
  • check local weather conditions
  • plan for emergencies by carrying a first aid kit, emergency supplies and know basic first aid
  • be sober
  • learn about avalanche safety and ice safety, if those risks are expected on your route
  • ride in a group, if possible

Local clubs and associations are available across Canada and can help you learn more about safe snowmobiling.

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