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Preparing Your Vehicle for Winter Road Conditions

Wherever you may be in Ontario, you have likely experienced the adverse effects of winter conditions on the road. According to a recent report released by the RCMP, nearly 30% of all motor vehicle collisions occurred on wet, snowy, or icy roads. Low visibility in a snowstorm can also cause major issues, as can sudden snaps of wind.  

Depending on its severity, the consequences of a car accident can have profound effects on a person’s life. From whiplash to broken bones, burns and spinal cord injuries, recovery from a motor vehicle collision can sometimes take years, costing an individual a fortune in medical bills, lost income, not to mention pain and suffering. In the tragic event of a fatal accident, the death of a loved one can have severe repercussions for the lives of their family. 

If you or someone you love have been adversely affected by a car accident, our motor vehicle accident lawyers may be able to help you understand your legal rights, including any compensation to which you may be entitled. Contact us today to book a free initial consultation today. 

It is important to be alert and vigilant anytime you get behind the wheel, but especially when facing challenging road conditions. Unfortunately, you may not be able to prevent all motor vehicle accidents, especially where they involve another driver’s negligent behaviour. You can, however, take all the steps within your power to make sure your vehicle is prepared for a safe winter drive. 

1. Install Winter Tires 

While winter tires are not mandatory under Ontario law, it may be in your best interests to install them. Built with extra traction, they are more suitable for extreme snow conditions than “all-season” tires. 

Winter tires are designated by a symbol on their side wall that is marked with an icon of a mountain with a snowflake inside it. 

Especially before long trips, it is important to check the condition of your tires. Tires with at least 50% tread remaining are safest for icy roads. Properly inflated tires are more fuel efficient and offer better traction on the road. When checking your tire pressure, keep in mind that air has a different density in a warm garage than out in the cold, and what might be good pressure indoors may be under-inflated on the road. It can be beneficial to conduct your pressure checks on cold tires.  

2. Check Your Battery 

You need a fully charged battery in for your motor to start when the weather is cold. Keep the battery posts clean and perform regular checks of the belts and charging system. When in doubt, see a professional mechanic to test your battery. Regular battery tests in the spring and fall can help make sure weak batteries are replaced early. 

3. Check Your Lights 

Low visibility can cause serious accidents on the road. During adverse weather events such as whiteouts, reliably functioning headlights will be important to keep you safe. Perform regular checks, including with the assistance of a professional, to make sure all your lights are in good order. 

4. Make Sure Your Brakes Are Working 

Brakes are vital to safe driving, no matter the weather. Especially when facing winter road conditions, a functional braking mechanism is crucial to your safety. . Pay close attention to any unusual sounds, including squealing or grinding, as well as changes in the way the pedal responds when you brake. Bring any issues that may arise to a certified technician.  

5. Check Your Exhaust System 

From potholes to ice build-up and road salt corrosion, your car’s exhaust system can suffer damage from winter driving. If your exhaust system develops a leak, it might begin releasing carbon monoxide into your vehicle’s interior, which can be fatal. Pay attention to any changes within your exhaust system. Common signs of leaks include hissing, rattling, vibration, and roaring sounds. If you perform a visual inspection, look for any holes or rust. Make sure to perform regular checks of your exhaust system with a trained mechanic. 

An additional tip: if you are ever stranded in your vehicle in the winter, double check to make sure there is no snow or ice build-up in your tailpipe. Keeping it clear will help reduce your exposure to harmful gases. 

6. Check Your Heating and Cooling System 

When you drive in the cold, your engine oscillates between two extreme temperatures: the high heat it generates, and the cold of the outdoors. This means that when the engine is on, it gets very hot, and when it is off, it can become very cold. If your vehicle’s heating and cooling system is in good order, it will help the engine move smoothly between the extremes, using a system that includes belts, antifreeze fluids, and hoses. It is important to check this system regularly to make sure everything is ready to go. Look for cracks or leaks in your drive belts and radiator hoses, and make sure your radiator cap, thermostat, and water pump are working. Your coolant or antifreeze should be at an appropriate level, and your heater and defroster in good condition.  

7. Keep Your Windshield Wipers Working 

Ice and snow build-up on windshield wipers can severely impact your ability to see, making a drive quite dangerous. Make sure to double check the condition of your windshield wipers, especially before embarking on a long trip. Replace any wipers that leave streaks on your windshield. It can help to purchase specially designed winter wipers. When buying winter washer fluid, look for the -40°C range, and pack an extra jug of fluid just in case. 

8. Pack an Emergency Kit 

If you become stranded in a snowbank and have to wait for roadside assistance, it might take several hours before help can reach you because of hazardous weather conditions.  

To help you and your passengers stay safe should you become stranded, it can be a good idea to keep an emergency kit in your trunk. The Ontario Ministry of Transportation recommends you pack the following items: 

  • A small shovel, to help dig through snow if needed 
  • An ice scraper/brush 
  • Sand, kitty litter, or any other item that can help with traction 
  • Towrope or chain 
  • Toilet paper 
  • Cloth 
  • Warning lights, reflective tape, or road flares, to help other drivers see you 
  • Booster cables 
  • Extra clothing for warmth (e.g., Socks, gloves, footwear), as well as hand/foot warmers 
  • Blanket (tip: look for “survival” blankets) 
  • Water bottles 
  • Non-perishable food items such as energy bars. 
  • A fire extinguisher 
  • Extra windshield washer fluid (up to -40°C) 
  • Lock de-icer 
  • Fuel line antifreeze 
  • Flashlight and batteries 
  • A tool kit that includes screwdriver, pliers, etc. 
  • First aid kit 
  • Road maps 

It can also be a good idea to keep candles and matches or a lighter in your vehicle – not only are they a source of light, but they can also generate heat for you and your passengers as you wait for assistance. 

9. Clear Your Car of Ice and Snow 

You have done all your checks and maintenance, packed your emergency kit, and have installed your winter tires. Before embarking on your journey, make sure to clear any ice and snow that might have built up on your vehicle since your last drive. Make sure all the windows, mirrors, and lights are clear. Once you have started your engine, wait for the fog to dissipate on the glass, so that you have good visibility. 

10. Keep Your Gas Tank Full 

Winter road conditions can be unpredictable, and sometimes a short commute can become an hours-long odyssey. The last thing you want is to run out of gas while idling in traffic. Make sure your gas tank is full when you embark. 

Contact Our Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyers Today for a Consultation 

Even with the most rigorous precautions, driving through winter road conditions in Ontario can be dangerous. Negligent drivers can cause other road-users serious harm in any weather, but they are far more likely to do so on icy or snowy roads, or in low visibility driving conditions. If you were injured in a wintertime collision caused by a negligent driver, our motor vehicle accident lawyers may be able to help you recover the compensation you deserve. 

To learn more about options that may be available to you after surviving a collision on snowy roads, contact us at Preszler Injury Lawyers and take advantage of a free initial consultation.

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