Road Safety

Winter Driving


Sometimes winter comes faster than we expect and we have a difficult time changing our driving habits to suit the conditions of snow and sleet. Imagine this: You are driving at 50 km/h. Suddenly, you see something in front of you – a car, a small child, a trash can – can you stop?

What if you were going just a few km’s faster? You could still stop in time… couldn’t you?

Speed is a crucial factor in winter driving - it affects how quickly you can stop. In ideal conditions, a vehicle travelling 60 km/h will take 10.33 m (over 30 feet) more to stop than a vehicle going 50 km/h. Increased speed combined with slippery roads, reduced visibility, following too closely, poor vehicle maintenance and distracted driving can spell disaster.

Winter Driving Hazards

Speed and Slippery Roads — Regardless of the time of year, speeding is always an issue on Manitoba roads. In winter, it’s especially dangerous because the traction of the road is considerably reduced. Ice on roads at -1 C is twice as slippery as ice at -18 C, so pay attention at all times. Ice is not easy to see, slowing down will decrease your chances of getting into a collision in less than ideal conditions.

Remember, speed limits are the maximum speed under ideal conditions.

Reduced Visibility — One of the major hazards of winter driving is that our visibility is greatly reduced. Falling snow, blizzards and even exhaust from other vehicles makes it more difficult to scan the road and see everything around us. In heavy snow or sleet, it’s a good idea to turn your headlights on – day or night. This helps others to see you better, especially those driving behind you. Glare from snow banks and slick icy roads can further reduce your vision, so use your visor or sunglasses.

Always clear snow and ice off from your vehicle before you drive so you can see through your windshield, windows and mirrors. Make sure your light covers are clear and clean off the rest of your vehicle to avoid snow flying onto vehicles behind you.

Keep a safe following distance and expect the unexpected. While weather does play a factor in collisions, Manitobans need to drive according to the conditions of the road.

Vehicle Maintenance — Winter can be hard on your vehicle and a vehicle that is not properly maintained can leave you stranded on the side of the road. To keep your vehicle in good working condition, follow the maintenance schedule in your vehicle’s owner manual.

One of the areas that requires a regular check is the condition of your tires. Tires that are worn too close to the tread have far less traction, which can lead to loss of control over your vehicle in slippery conditions.

When tires are over-inflated, it reduces the friction between your vehicle and the road and may cause skidding. If tires are under-inflated, it creates too much friction and causes excessive wear and tear on your tires – and consumes more gas, costing you more money.

Consider using winter tires. A snowflake and mountain image symbol on a tire indicates it meets winter traction performance standards and has been designed specifically for use in severe snow conditions.

For more information on winter tires, please visit Transport Canada.

Top Ten Tips for Winter Driving


Reduce your speed when driving in less than ideal conditions


Keep a safe following distance


If you are in a skid, relax, release the brake and accelerator and look in the direction you want to go


See and be seen – turn your headlights on during heavy snow or sleet day or night and clear snow and ice off from your vehicle


Maintain your vehicle – get regular tune-ups, check your fluid levels and your tires


SIPDE – Scan, Identify, Predict, Decide and Execute


Use your sun visor or sunglasses when driving on sunny days


Beware of icy spots – bridges, overpasses, intersections and spots not in the sun


Accelerate and decelerate gradually


Be a defensive driver