Folks in Estevan came slipping and sliding out the door on Wednesday morning, and so did their vehicles, as temperatures hovered just below zero and snow fell in large, fluffy flakes.

Now, it's not really fair to always blame an automobile for it's tendancies on the ice, as it often comes down to the driver's habits. That said, the first snow fall of the season means that it's time for motorists to brush off those winter driving skills that are neccesary in Saskatchewan. It could be intimidating, getting back into that mindset, and so SGI's Tyler McMurchy shared some tips just in time for the change in season.

Posted speed limits are for ideal driving conditions

"Chief among those is slowing down. Posted speed limits are for ideal driving conditions, so we recommend that motorists adjust their speed accordingly when conditions are less than favorable," he said.

"We also recommend that people clear snow away from their vehicle, and make sure that their windows are completely defrosted before setting off. We want to make sure that they clean off their headlights and taillights so they can be seen if the snow is reducing visibility."

"We advise people to leave more distance on the road between their vehicle and the one in front of them so they have more time to stop or react if need be when conditions are slippery," McMurchy stated, "We recommend about 4 seconds of following distance."

Other tips that come from SGI include...

  • Giving yourself extra time to get to your destination, so you're not temped to drive too fast for the road conditions.
  • Turn on your headlights at night and anytime that visibility is poor, since some vehicles don't have taillights on when daytime running lights are being used.
  • Don't use cruise control in slippery conditions.
  • Invest in a set of winter tires, which provide improved traction on winter road surfaces.
  • Buckle up. Every time.

"We haven't seen any major blizzards yet, however, we know that they are a fact of life when living in Saskatchewan. We advise people to put together an emergency kit to keep in their car throughout the winter months."

We advise people to put together an emergency kit to keep in their car

That kit can included items such as...

  • Warm clothes or blankets.
  • A shovel and a snow brush.
  • Booster cables.
  • Matches and a candle.
  • A tin cup to melt snow for water if you're stranded for a longer period of time on the roadside.

"You may even want to include non perishable food, like dried fruit or granola bars, to help keep you safe and comfortable as you wait out that storm," McMurchy added.

There are other ways to protect yourself if you have to hunker down for a while...

  • Remain inside your vehicle because it will offer you protection from the harsh winter elements.
  • Run your engine sporadically to get some heat but be careful not to run out of gas. In that case, the blankets, candles and matches you packed in your roadside emergency kit will serve you well.
  • When running your engine, ensure that your vehicle's exhaust pipe is clear of snow and ice. If it's plugged, fumes will seep into your vehicle, resulting in possible carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If you find you need fresh air, your best option is to slightly lower the windows facing opposite the wind direction and open your vehicle's heater vent.

"When little ones are travelling with you, you want to make sure that they are in the appropriate car seat or booster seat. We also want to make sure that they are dressed in light, thin layers, and maybe put a blanket over top. The reason is you don't want anything interfering with the seatbelt, and you should only be able to put one finger in between the child and the seatbelt. You want them in there snug, so that they're safe as you travel the winter roads."

This year there may be quite a few folks out there who have never driven in these kinds of conditions before, and McMurchy also had a word of advice for them.

"When they are first starting out, we of course recommend that they give themselves more time to reach their destination. However, you also want to start your trip slowly, testing your braking and steering to get a feel for the road, to see how your tires are performing on that surface. Once you've reached a level of comfort you can gradually increase your speed. The key is to remain in control of your vehicle at all times, even if that means driving under the posted speed limit."

"You'll want to stay alert as you approach intersections, scanning the road for traction such as sand or bare pavement, and always accelerate and decelerate gradually. If you find your vehicle skidding, remain calm, take your foot off the accelerator, don't lock your brakes but brake steadily, look where you want to go and steer in that direction," he added.

SGI also asks that motorists slow down to 60 kilometers per hour when passing emergency vehicles, and to keep a good distance from snowplows and their mini blizzards as well, and to refrain from impaired and distracted driving.

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