Planning your trip

Winter driving isn't easy and can be risky, so it helps to be prepared. There are many steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones on the road. It's better to prevent an accident than to recover from one.

On this page:

Check the weather

It's not always possible to avoid driving in bad weather but checking weather reports regularly can help you plan around it. Environment Canada puts out warnings when they expect blizzards, heavy snow, freezing rain or drizzle, cold snaps, and strong winds. Many provinces and territories have traveller information like “511” and smartphone apps are available for weather updates, road conditions, and snow plow operations.

Prepare for winter driving

If you must drive, give yourself extra time for travel and slow down. If weather is bad, wait for conditions to improve. Always tell someone where you're going, the route you plan to take, and when you expect to arrive. Before heading out, you can use a smart phone app to share your location with friends and family as you travel. If you don't arrive on time, and people are worried about your safety, they'll know where to search for you.

Make sure that your phone is fully charged and bring a charging cable. If you're going on a longer trip, consider bringing a battery pack for your cell phone.

Keep your fuel tank at least half full, and if you drive an electric vehicle, make sure that it has enough range for unplanned events since cold temperatures can reduce the range of the vehicle.

Know your vehicle

Your owner's manual can give you a better idea of what features are in your vehicle, the warning symbols and what they mean, along with winter driving recommendations. Some manuals describe specific control settings you will need to set to get unstuck from the snow.

Many vehicle manufacturers offer online manuals as well, which videos and infographics to help explain specific features of your vehicle. Some also provide information about winter driving conditions specific to your vehicle. Please visit your vehicle manufacturing website for more details.

If your vehicle is equipped with driver assistance technologies, be aware that snow and ice can affect their performance, and they may not work properly in winter weather. Learn more at driver assistance technologies.

Carry winter supplies and an emergency kit

Keep these vehicle supplies and personal items in your trunk and make sure you know how to use them during an emergency:

  • small shovel with a long handle
  • sand or kitty litter
  • traction mats
  • cloth or roll of paper towels
  • warning light, reflective safety triangles or road flares
  • extra socks, gloves, tuque, and footwear
  • non-perishable snacks
  • water bottles
  • booster cables
  • hand and foot warmers
  • fire extinguisher
  • extra windshield washer fluid
  • fuel line antifreeze
  • extra fuses
  • lock de-icer
  • small tool kit

Keep these important items in your vehicle:

  • ice scraper and snow brush
  • flashlight
  • emergency seat belt cutter and window hammer
  • first aid kit
  • blankets

In case of emergency

Remember to stay calm if you get trapped in a storm or snowbank.

If your vehicle isn't at risk of being hit by other drivers, stay inside so you have shelter. Going out into a storm puts you at risk of getting lost or suffering in the cold.

Don't do any heavy lifting, shoveling or pushing in the bitter cold  – this could be deadly.

Do make sure the tailpipe isn't blocked by snow. This will keep carbon monoxide from getting into your vehicle.

You should also:

  • keep a window open a bit to supply fresh air, make sure the window is protected from the wind
  • run your motor as little as possible
  • use hand and foot warmers instead of the vehicle's heater
  • wear a hat, since you can lose up to 60% of your body heat through your head
  • set out a warning light, reflective safety triangles or flares
  • turn on the dome light. Overusing headlights may run your battery down
  • exercise your arms and legs often
  • stay awake
  • watch for traffic or searchers

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