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Oct 30, 2020

8 min. read

Brush up on some winter driving tips to manage the road ahead.

Motor vehicle insurance claims can spike as much as 35 percent between December and the end of February. The reason for such a slippery slope? Poor driving conditions and motorists failing to drive to those conditions. But there are strategies drivers can employ to avoid becoming a statistic. We spoke to two auto experts to get their winter driving tips: MPI's Brian Smiley and Danny Kok, who runs an ice-driving academy on frozen Lake Winnipeg in Gimli.

Drive to conditions.

"The speed limit is set for ideal road conditions," Smiley says, meaning police can actually ticket you for driving the speed limit in bad conditions. "If that means doing 80km/h in a 100 km/h zone, so be it." Be smart and slow down, but don't overdo it. "There's a fine line between driving to conditions and being overly cautious," he says.

Get winter tires.

There is plenty of evidence proving all-season tires just don't cut it in cold conditions. Winter tires stay pliable to -40 C and have tread patterns that grip ice and bite into snow. Smiley says tire retailers can finance winter tires and rims through MPI, though only tires with the mountain and snowflake symbol qualify for the MPI finance program.

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Stay focused.

Keep your eyes up and look far down the road. "You'll identify problems—snow drifts, stalled vehicles, icy patches—before they become emergencies," Kok says. Your eyes will also tell you very early if you're starting to slide. Knowing this as soon as possible helps you correct a slide before it becomes unmanageable.

Fix a skid.

Knowing how to fix a slide is key to safe winter driving. In any skid, look and steer where you want to go. In a frontwheel skid, when you aren't turning as much as you'd like, gently lift off the gas. In a rear-wheel skid, don't lift the gas and "steer where you want to go," Kok says. Lay off the brakes and slow down after you regain control.

Stay with your car.

If you go off the road and are stuck, don't leave your vehicle, Smiley advises. First, call CAA for roadside assistance. Then stay inside, running the vehicle intermittently to stay warm. Only get out of your vehicle to clear snow from your exhaust pipe. Leaving the vehicle makes you prone to getting lost and succumbing to hypothermia. Stay inside: Help is on the way!

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