Winter is fast approaching, and since you may be out of practice when it comes to dealing with slippery driving conditions, we've put together some road safety suggestions to consider before getting behind the wheel.

Plan ahead

One of the easiest ways to prepare for the drive ahead before hitting the road is checking the weather report for towns along your route. While it may not seem like the roadways are slick where you are, that doesn't mean foul weather hasn't affected, or will be affecting, areas you will be driving through. A storm anywhere along your intended route may make it necessary to re-evaluate your travel plans.

In addition to ensuring the weather is passable, you should also have your route planned in advance. If certain roadways are particularly treacherous, you may want to look for alternative directions that use different highways or roads that get you to your destination.
You should also prepare a winter safety kit for the interior of the car in the event of an emergency. Some of the things to include are:
  • Blanket
  • Flashlight
  • Emergency food pack with bottled water, granola bars and nuts
  • Cell phone charger
  • Emergency candle and waterproof matches

Stay on top of maintenance

Winter weather takes its toll on your car, so before the start of the season take your car in for a good once over. When a professional auto mechanic looks under the hood, problems may be apparent to them you wouldn't have noticed. The mechanic should also check to make sure the engine has enough oil and whether it needs to be filled with anti-freeze.
Your trip to the mechanic may also be the ideal time to change your all-season tires to your winter tires. A good rule of thumb is to put your snow tires on when the temperature is consistently lower than 7° Celsius. Many people think there's no difference between winter tires and all-season tires, but that's a myth. Winter tires are designed to keep their traction in colder weather - unlike all-season tires - and have approximately 30 per cent deeper grooves to improve grip.

If you don't change your tires seasonally, you'll still want to give your tires some attention. Even though many of today's vehicles have tire pressure monitoring systems that alert drivers if their air pressure is low, it's important to check them anyway. Properly inflated tires can also enhance a vehicle's fuel efficiency.

Slow down!

Wintry weather conditions can make what are typically short trips much longer. As a result, you should leave for your destination early, allowing plenty of time to get to where you're going without having to worry about being late or trying to drive faster than the conditions allow.

Also, don't be tricked into thinking that just because the conditions look clear outside that winter driving precautions are unnecessary. Black ice is not easy to spot and can cause you to lose control of your car. Black ice is most commonly found in shaded areas (like under bridges) and at intersections where car exhaust and tires melt snow which then refreezes. With this in mind, it's important to leave more distance between you and the car in front than you typically would in good driving conditions.

Finally, don't forget to practice the three key elements that make for safe winter driving - stay alert, slow down and stay in control. Remembering these three elements can help you get through the winter season safely and without having to file an auto insurance claim due to a winter accident.
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