Safe Winter Driving Tips

Most Canadians know winter brings with it inclement weather that can make driving more challenging.

And while the majority of Canadians prepare for winter by installing winter tires and leaving extra distance between their vehicle and the one in front of them, CAA wants to remind all drivers of other less-practiced tips to help make your winter drive a safe one.

Winter car care scraping ice off windshield

Before you leave

Wear your seatbelt

It may seem obvious, but you should always wear your seatbelt. It can save your life. According to Transport Canada, more than a quarter of drivers and passengers who were fatally injured in a collision were not using a seatbelt.

Turn on your lights

Don’t be a phantom vehicle. Make sure your lights are on. Not only does it make your path clearer, but it also helps other drivers see you.  The Government of Canada is making automatic tail and headlights a standard lighting requirement for new vehicles sold in Canada as of 2021. For now, if your car does not have automatic lights, make sure to turn them on.

Make sure your view is clear

Don’t be that igloo on wheels. Clear ice and snow from all exterior windows and mirrors before you start driving. Don’t forget about the inside of the car, either. Your AC is also a dehumidifier—use it to clear foggy windows for better visibility.

Be prepared

Keep an emergency car kit in your car. You don’t need to spend a lot of money – most items can be found in your home. Be sure to pack items such as gloves, hats, a blanket, a first aid kit, booster cables, a small shovel, a flashlight, and anything else that can help keep you safe in an emergency.

Put your phone away

Your phone is an important tool, but you should never use it while driving. Decide what music you want to listen to, and then put your phone away. Make sure your phone is charged, too – in case you need to call CAA.

While you drive

Keep a full tank

At a minimum, keep your tank half full. If you’re ever stuck in an emergency on the road, you’ll be able to run your car for short periods of time to stay warm.

Don’t use cruise control

Cruise control is helpful, but not on slippery roads. Stay attentive and be ready to brake. The best way to avoid a skid is by driving at speeds that are safe for the weather and road conditions. Remember, speed limits are posted for ideal weather, which means in the winter you should always drive below the speed limit.

Don’t rely on GPS

Winter driving safety begins even before you leave the driveway. First, check the weather forecast. Depending on the weather, your drive may take longer. If using a GPS, don’t rely on the estimated arrival time. Add at least 15 minutes to your drive to allow for additional traffic due to weather.

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. Slow down. Allow extra travel time and be very careful when you brake, change lanes, make turns, and take curves.

To reduce skidding in bad weather, visit Transport Canada for more tips.


Shovelling snow from under car

Just in case

Stay calm

If you do get stuck, stay calm. Don’t do any heavy lifting or try to push your car by yourself. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, make sure the tailpipe of your car isn’t blocked by snow. Then keep a window slightly open for fresh air and stay awake.

Consider a CAA Membership

CAA provides 24 hours a day, 7 days a week Emergency Road Service (ERS) to Members. Learn more about becoming a Member.

Learn More About Winter Tires

Learn more about how winter tires can help you get through the tough winter roads.

Learn about winter tires