Driving for the Conditions
- Year-round driving
- Driving in rain
- Driving in fog
- Driving in heat
- Driving in snow and ice
Road and weather conditions change quickly in BC, and your driving should adjust to them. Driving too fast for the conditions causes crashes. Learn tips for safe driving in a variety of weather conditions.
In BC, every season has challenging weather. Driving too fast for the conditions causes crashes, and it isn’t just dangerous in severe weather. You can go too fast in light rain or bright sunshine too.
Reduce your risk of injury or death by following these 4 guidelines at all times:
No matter how experienced you are, your vehicle can move in unexpected ways on wet, icy, or snowy roads. It will take longer to stop. In good road or weather conditions, always leave at least 2 seconds between you and the vehicle in front of you. In poor road or weather conditions, leave at least 4 seconds.
The posted speed is the fastest you are allowed to drive in ideal conditions. When conditions are less than ideal, drive slower than the posted limit. Drive at a speed where you know you can safely control the vehicle.
Drivers need to see and be seen in low light. Snow, rain, and fog reduce visibility. Always drive with your headlights on. Some older vehicles may not have lights that come on automatically.
If you feel it is unsafe for you or a colleague to drive, talk to your supervisor or employer right away. You can refuse to drive in unsafe weather conditions as part of your employee responsibilities.
Driving in rain
Rain can fall at any time of year in BC and is especially hazardous in colder temperatures or low light. Reduced visibility, slippery roads, spray, and flooding can challenge even the best drivers.
Safe driving in wet conditions
Follow these tips to stay safe on wet roads:
Check the road and weather conditions on DriveBC before you leave. If you see a problem, choose a different route or make the trip when conditions improve.
Are they old or brittle? Do they leave streaks or gaps? If so, replace them. Switch to winter blades in October.
Keep them on even in light rain or overcast conditions. They help you see the road and allow other drivers to see you.
If you can, slow down by taking your foot off the accelerator instead of applying your brakes right away.
Brakes are less effective when wet. If you have to drive through deeper water, slow down and apply the brakes gently to help them dry out. Make sure the brakes pull evenly on all wheels before you speed up again.
Drops of oil and other substances can collect on the road, especially in summer. Rain mixes with them and makes the surface very slippery.
The spray from their huge tires will reduce your visibility. If you have to pass a large vehicle, do it quickly and safely.
Hydroplaning happens when water on the road collects faster than your tires can push it away, and your vehicle loses its connection to the road. If your vehicle starts hydroplaning, you may have trouble steering or braking. Hydroplaning usually happens at higher speeds, over 60km/h.
Hydroplaning can happen with less water than you may think, and at any time of the year.
Follow these tips to reduce your risk:
Don’t use it on very wet and slippery roads. If you start to hydroplane, cruise control could cause the vehicle to speed up. You could lose control.
You can’t be sure how deep a puddle is, so always slow down when approaching one. Do the same when you see running water on the road. Follow these 4 steps to driving safely when roads flood.
If your vehicle starts to hydroplane, keep your foot off the brake. Steer in the direction you want to go until your tires reconnect with the road. Sudden or sharp turns could cause your vehicle to skid more.
Driving in fog
In fog, your visibility can decline in seconds. Even creeping along at 10 to 15 km/h can be dangerous. Low visibility increases crash risks, so adjust your driving. If it’s foggy, try to cancel or delay your trip. An hour or two can make a difference to visibility.
If you must drive, follow these guidelines:
Check current road conditions on DriveBC.
Use fog lights if you have them. Don’t switch on your high beams. Fog reflects the light back to you, limiting your visibility.
They can help improve visibility.
That white line along the edge of highways is called the fog line. Use it and other road markings as reference points.
Fog creates the illusion of slow motion. You might be going faster than you think.
If visibility is so bad that you want to suspend your trip, try not to stop on the side of the road. Another driver might not see you until it’s too late. If possible, pull onto a side street or into a parking lot.
Driving in heat
Summer driving has its hazards. Warmth and bright sunshine tend to increase driver and eye fatigue. Driving conditions that seem ideal can make drivers feel like nothing could go wrong. As a result, they pay less attention to the hazards around them.
Prepare your vehicle
Heat can put stress on many vehicle components. For example, burst tires are more common in hot weather. Before driving, check tire pressure and condition. Check that the radiator is filled with fluid. Make sure hoses, belts, and air conditioning are working properly. Clean the windshield.
Review our vehicle inspections checklist.
Follow these tips to reduce your risk:
You need to see clearly and protect your eyes. If you’re driving towards the sun, good driving glasses deal with glare and reduce eye strain.
Wildlife such as deer, elk, and bears are more likely to be active early in the morning and later in the evening. Be especially alert for them from 5 to 8 a.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Learn more about preventing collisions with wildlife.
Light coloured and natural fibre fabrics can help keep you cool. If you’ll be in the sun for a long time while driving, be sure to cover up or wear sunscreen.
Load a cooler with chilled drinks to ensure everyone in the vehicle gets enough fluids. Water is a better option than sugary drinks.
If you get stranded, a vehicle emergency kit could be a lifesaver.
Stop every 2 to 3 hours to stretch your legs and get a drink.
If you have a long way to drive, leave early in the morning or later in the afternoon. You’ll avoid the hottest time of day, which will be easier on you, your passengers, and your vehicle.
Use TripCheck to build a solid trip plan. Include a check-in process to ensure help will be on the way if something goes wrong on the road.
Driving in snow and ice
Winter weather and road conditions push your driving skills to the limit. Adjusting your driving to the conditions you face can help reduce the risk of crashing. Reducing speed is just one of the steps that can help keep you safe on snowy or icy roads.
Hazards of snow and ice
Different types of snow on roads can challenge your driving abilities. Hard-packed snow can be as slippery as ice, making it hard for you to steer and stop. Wet snow can turn to slush that builds up in the wheel wells and affects your ability to steer. Slush and spray from other vehicles can also cause sudden loss of visibility.
Icy conditions can make it difficult to steer and stop. You have to watch out for yourself and for others sliding into your path.
Winter tires work better than other tires at temperatures below 7C. The critical zone for driving safety falls between 5C to -5C so keep an eye on the thermometer before heading out.
Also be aware of temperature transitions. The mercury can warm during the day only to cool in the afternoon. Temperatures can also warm or cool as elevation changes.
Winter driving safety tips
Your first line of defence is having 4 matched winter tires on your vehicle. Here are other tips to help you make it to your destination on snowy or icy roads.
Driving too fast for the conditions is one of the leading contributors to fatal crashes all year round. The posted speed limit is the maximum speed under ideal driving conditions. Winter conditions are far from ideal. So it’s safer to drive below the posted speed.
No matter how much driving experience you have, your car can move unpredictably on snow or ice.
It’s especially important to slow down as you approach an intersection. Stopping takes longer on ice. As well, watch for vehicles sliding through the intersection.
Always look ahead when driving and keep at least 4 seconds of distance between you and the car in front. The other driver may make a sudden change. You need to give yourself time and space to react.
Provide even more space if the conditions are poor or if the driving is more treacherous. Examples include going down a hill or driving on a road with sharp curves.
Slow down when approaching icy areas such as shaded areas, bridges, and overpasses. These sections of road freeze faster than others in cold weather. Watch for black ice. The thin, almost invisible coating forms when it’s near freezing. If there’s ice build-up on your windshield, it’s a clue that black ice is probably on the road. Also watch for sections of the road that appear black and shiny.
On slick roads, start slowly and accelerate gradually to maintain traction and avoid spinning your wheels.
When stopping, plan well in advance, apply the brakes gently and slowly add pressure. Never brake suddenly. If your vehicle has an anti-lock braking system, you don’t need to pump the brakes on slippery roads. Your vehicle will activate it automatically.
Slow down and steer smoothly and gradually to avoid skidding. Accelerate gently, turn slowly, and brake carefully and early. Avoid unexpected quick movements that could put you in a spin. Anticipate turns, stops, and lane changes well before they occur.
A skid usually results from driving too fast for road conditions. If you start to skid, ease off the brake or accelerator and look and steer in the direction you want to go. Smooth steering is the key to recovering. Be careful not to over-steer. If you’re on ice and skidding in a straight line, step on the clutch or shift to neutral.
It’s critical for drivers to see and be seen in low light conditions, and when blowing snow impairs visibility. Use your fog lights. Avoid using high beams because they can blind other drivers and cause light to reflect back at you off falling snow.
Maintain a safe following distance around all highway maintenance vehicles such as plows and salt or sand trucks. These vehicles throw up snow and spray, which can cover your windshield.
Passing a plow can be dangerous. If you absolutely have to do it, never pass on the right.
Always clear all windows, lights, mirrors, hood, and the roof. After starting your vehicle, wait for the window to defrost completely to allow clear visibility all around.
Even with great winter tires, steep hills can be difficult to navigate in winter conditions. If you can’t avoid them, take the hill slow and steady. Pick a path that has unpacked snow to get a better grip. Try to maintain your motion rather than stopping. You can use the engine gears to slow the wheels, but it can be harder to control your vehicle than using the brakes. Watch the cars ahead of you to see where they’re spinning their wheels or sliding so that you can avoid those spots.
Allow extra following distance in case you or the vehicle ahead of you lose control.
If you’re stuck in snow on the roadside, turn on your hazard lights to alert other drivers. Avoid overexertion and exposure when trying to dig yourself out. Clear the snow from around your tires to allow your wheels to roll more freely. If you have traction mats, old carpets, salt, sand, or kitty litter, put them right in front of your drive wheels.
Press the accelerator slowly so the tire has time to grip. Gently rock your vehicle back and forth by shifting from forward to reverse, gradually increasing the distance with each rocking motion. Using 4-wheel-drive if you have it can help provide grip to get your vehicle unstuck. Just know that 4x4s don’t provide better traction on slippery roads. They supply torque to more of the wheels but only tires provide traction.
If the snow is too deep or you’re stuck because it’s icy, you may need to get some additional help. Call for roadside assistance. Call 911 only if it’s an emergency. Use your emergency kit. Set out a warning light or flares.
Stay in your vehicle for warmth and safety. It’s not a good idea to keep the engine running due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. If you have to run the vehicle, open a window slightly to let in fresh air.
If you’re on a highway, turn on your hazard lights and go slowly. You need to give yourself time to stop if someone ahead of you suddenly stops. Look to pull over in a safe location if conditions make it too dangerous to drive. Avoid stopping on the road as you could get hit by another vehicle.
It’s hard to see when you’re driving during a snowfall, especially at night. It can also be confusing and cause you to feel dizzy. You may feel you’re going slower or faster than you actually are. Check your speedometer and your mirrors to help steady you.
Wear yellow-tinted glasses, which will reduce the glare from headlights and streetlights.
Visit ShiftIntoWinter.ca for more information.