Winter driving

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When winter arrives, we can have a difficult time changing our driving habits to suit the conditions of snow and sleet. Inappropriate speed, reduced visibility, following too closely, sudden acceleration or braking, and poor vehicle maintenance are all reasons why Manitobans report more crashes in winter months.

Speed and slippery roads

In winter, traction is reduced affecting your ability to get out of snow, make a turn or stop. As a general rule, stopping distance is doubled on wet pavement, tripled on packed snow, and up to 10 times longer on an icy road. Ice on roads at -1C is twice as slippery as ice at -18C.

Slow down

Slowing down will maintain traction and decrease your total stopping distance. Posted speed limits are the maximum recommended speed for ideal conditions only.

Leave earlier

Avoid the temptation to drive too fast for conditions by giving yourself extra travel time.

Drive smoothly.

Ease up on the accelerator to avoid slipping in the wrong direction, or spinning your tires and getting stuck. Learn more about getting unstuck in this 60 Second Video. Brake gently to prevent loss of traction. When turning, steer the wheel just enough to follow the path you intend. Don’t brake and turn the wheel simultaneously – this can cause you to lose traction.

Brake sooner

Brake sooner than you normally would to allow more space to stop. Risk of injury is high at intersections where ice tends to build up, and where there may be pedestrians or other vehicles sliding into your path.

Leave distance between vehicles

Leave plenty of following distance between you and the vehicle in front. The recommended safe distance in ideal conditions is four seconds; on highways allow for six seconds. In poor conditions, leave more time. Learn how to determine a safe following distance.

Know how to recover from a skid

If your wheels start to slide, look and steer in the direction you want to go. Take your foot off the accelerator and off the brake. Gently steer and counter-steer until your vehicle lines up with where you want to go. As you begin to regain control, gently apply the brakes (for rear wheel skid) or the accelerator (for front wheel skid).

Don’t use cruise control

Cruise control isn’t intended for winter driving. If your vehicle loses traction, cruise control will cause the wheels to rapidly spin and accelerate at the worst possible time.

Reduced visibility

Visibility is greatly reduced in winter. Falling snow, white outs, exhaust from other vehicles, interior fog and snow banks all make it more difficult to scan the road and see everything around us.

Keep your headlights on

Your headlights on will help others to see you better in poor conditions. On bright sunny days use your visor or polarized sunglasses to reduce glare.

Clear snow and ice

Before you drive, clear snow and ice from your vehicle and be sure you can see through your windshield, windows and mirrors (see our 60 Second Driver on winter preparation). Make sure your light covers are clear, and remember to clear snow off the hood to prevent snow flying onto vehicles behind you.

Use caution around snow banks and snow clearing equipment

Take your time around snow banks (see our 60 Second Driver video on snow banks). Advance cautiously and lean forward to improve your view (‘creep and peep’). Stay well behind snow plows (learn more in our 60 Second Driver video on snow plows). Slow down and leave plenty of space between you and the snow plow. Always be prepared to stop suddenly.

Vehicle maintenance

A vehicle that is not properly maintained can leave you stranded on the side of the road. Learn more in our 60 Second Driver video on vehicle maintenance.

Proper maintenance

Keep your vehicle in good working condition. Follow the maintenance schedule in your owner manual and get a winter tune-up, including checking your fluid levels, windshield wipers, and battery often.

Tire condition

Check the condition and inflation of your tires, including your spare. Learn more about tire inflation in our 60 Second Video. Tires that are too worn have far less grip, which can lead to loss of control in slippery conditions. Although by law the minimum required tire tread depth is 1.6 mm (2/32 in), a depth above 4.8 mm (6/32 in) increases your safety in rain or snow.

Winter tires

Using of winter tires increases traction, making it easier to get out of the snow and can cut stopping distance by 25 per cent or more. MPI’s Winter Tire Program provides low-interest financing on winter tires. Learn more in this 60 Second Driver video on winter tires.

Severe conditions

Conditions on Manitoba highways during winter can quickly turn dangerous. Planning ahead may save your life. Check for weather forecasts and road condition alerts by visiting for road information. Fill up on gas, anti-freeze and windshield washer fluid and travel with a fully-charged phone if you have one.

Emergency supplies

Keep a cold-weather survival kit in your vehicle. Include a candle and matches, water, non-perishable food, a first aid kit, flares or reflectors, booster cables and a shovel, an ice scraper, warm clothes, boots and blankets.

If you are stranded

If stranded, immediately contact 911 for assistance, turn on the vehicle’s four-way flashers, and remain in your vehicle until help arrives. Ensure that your tail-pipe is not covered or blocked with snow to reduce risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Book a community presentation

To book a presentation on winter driving for your community group, school or business, visit our Road Safety Community Presentations page for more information. For newcomers to Manitoba and newcomer organizations, an adapted “Welcome to Manitoba” presentation with winter driving information included is available.