Safe Winter Driving Seminar

Safe Winter Driving Seminar

Staying Safe on Canada’s Roads this Winter

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 OTTAWA

This community seminar was held to remind drivers, especially those aged 16-24, about the dangers caused by poor winter driving conditions and how these dangers are amplified by inexperience. Our expert speakers gave helpful tips on how young and newly licensed drivers can cope with inclement weather conditions by employing proven good driving habits this winter.  No matter what your age when you are behind the wheel, things can happen in a split second. Knowing the facts about staying safe can help prevent an accident.


Russell Pike, Certified Instructor and Centre Trainer, Young Drivers of Canada
Topic: Collision avoidance, defensive driving tips for winter conditions
Looking well ahead, keeping the "eyes" on your vehicle moving, spot and solve problems, keeping enough space between you and other drivers

Sergeant Mark Gatien, Ottawa Police, East Division Traffic
Topic: How to be prepared for Emergencies
Vehicle emergency kits, charges for not clearing your vehicle of snow and ice and driving according to conditions. The Law – cell phone use, careless driving, studded tire laws in Ontario, and new seat belt fines. Accidents: What is reportable and non-reportable? Consequences of hit and run accidents.

Don Fournier, Don Fournier Service Centre
Topic: Winter Maintenance for your car
What you should do for your car and what it means for your safety.

Greg Bergeron, Allstate Agency Manager, Allstate Canada
Topic: Insurance education — what every family should know about making changes to their auto insurance policy
Should I add a new or young driving to my family insurance policy?
How can I protect myself from increases in my policy?
What new drivers should do.

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Collision avoidance and defensive driving for winter conditions

Q: How do I drive safely on icy roads, blizzards, black ice and freezing rain?
A: Before you get in the car, remove all the snow from your windshield and roof of your car. It’s an offence in Ontario if you do not clear your vehicle of snow and ice. Then, when you are driving, keep your speed slow, pay attention to the road and keep a safe distance from the car ahead of you. If you drive over black ice, try to do as little as possible. Don’t brake, accelerate or turn the wheel — drive perfectly straight over the ice.

Q: What do I do if my car starts to skid on a slippery road?
A: The best way to avoid a skid is to keep your speed slow on winter roads. But, if your vehicle does begin to skid, look where you want your car to go, not where you are heading, and turn your steering wheel towards that spot. Be careful not to over steer the car.

Q: How many metres will it take for my car to come to a complete stop on icy roads?
A: In winter driving conditions, it takes all vehicles longer to stop on snow-covered roads. How long you need to stop depends on your speed, the size of your vehicle and the type of tires on your car. If you are driving at 50 km/h in a minivan with snow tires on it, it will take you approximately 38.3 m to come to a complete stop. A good rule of thumb is to stay six to nine “steamboats” (seconds) behind the vehicle ahead of you when driving in the winter. In Ontario, you will be hit with four demerit points if you are caught following too closely to the car ahead of you.

Q: What is the best way to drive uphill during winter road conditions?
A: The key to driving uphill in snow is to keep your vehicle’s momentum. While driving at a safe speed is important in the winter, some drivers will drive too slowly up a hill and become stuck in the snow. Approach the incline with enough speed and keep a light but even pressure on the gas pedal. Use as high a gear as possible for driving uphill in the snow: drive or overdrive for an automatic or one gear higher than normal for standard transmission. Once you reach the crest of the hill, reduce speed and go down the hill as slowly as possible.

Emergency preparedness during winter

Q: What should be in my emergency preparedness kit for winter?
A: In Canada, blizzards can come out of nowhere. Put together or purchase a winter safety kit that includes a warm blanket, flashlight, gloves, boots, flares and water. Don’t forget to keep a good ice scraper, shovel, washer fluid and non-perishable foods in your trunk.  Also, keeping a bag of kitty litter or sand in your trunk could help provide traction if your car becomes stuck in the snow.

Make sure you have a way of calling 911 if you have an emergency. Even an old cell phone without a plan can still dial 911. Remember to keep the phone charged and don’t call for help until your car is pulled over to the side of the road and completely stopped.

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Car maintenance: Preparing your car for the winter months and how to keep your car in top shape during the winter

Q: What steps should I take to get my car ready for winter?
A: It’s important to make sure your vehicle is ready for winter. Before the first snowfall, have your mechanic check your battery fluid levels, battery posts and cable connectors.  Bad connections can keep your car from starting. Replace worn windshield wipers, which reduce visibility in bad weather conditions. Lastly, ensure that your defroster and heater are working properly to keep visibility clear.

Q: What is the difference between all-season and snow tires and do I need snow tires for my car?
A: Snow tires are made to grip the ice and road at a colder temperature than all-season tires, which can begin to lose their grip when the temperature drops below -10°C. Winter tires also have deeper tread patterns to push through more snow and slush as the tire rotates. However, winter tires will wear quickly if the temperature is higher (e.g. during a mild winter). If you do purchase winter tires, do not only buy two, but install four of the same type of tire on your vehicle.

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Insurance education: What every family should know about making changes to your policy

Q: Is the same insurance enough for driving in the winter? Or is there any extra insurance required?
A: You don't need any extra insurance for the winter months that you would need for any other time of the year.  When you are given coverage, we seek to provide you with a type of coverage that will best suit your needs all year round. It would be best for you if you ensure that your policy has "Loss of use" coverage that enables you to get a rental car should you lose the use of your vehicle due to an accident during the winter months — or any time of the year for that matter.

Q: When changing the insurance policy from the parent’s name to the child’s name, what things should I keep in mind?
A:  The first thing you will need to do is ensure that the child is the registered owner of the vehicle that you wish to have them listed as the primary policy holder.  Someone can't be insured for something that they don't own.   In the event that you're buying a new car and are adding the child to a policy for that vehicle, you will be able to purchase a separate policy for the child. Please keep in mind that the policies for families typically take into account all vehicles in a household, as it is safer to ensure that all drivers are covered on all vehicles.  There are discounts to be had for families who insure multiple vehicles with the same insurer.

Q: Is there a big difference from having a car under the parent’s name compared to having it under the child's name?
A:   When determining your policy's premiums, it is always based on who the principle driver is on the vehicle in question.  Determining the premium on your policy depends on many factors, including  the experience of the drivers who are listed on the policy, and the number of cars in the household. If the child is the primary driver on the policy, their experience and insurance history will come into play.  Typically there are savings for drivers who have a longer history of being an insured driver (with a clean driving record of course!).  Children often don't have the driving record or insurance history of their parents so this is one way in which there may be a difference in having one listed as the primary operator over another.
If you are part of a one car family, it's best to have all drivers in the household insured to operate the vehicle regardless.
In cases where the child has purchased their own vehicle, the family (and the child's policy) would qualify for multi-car discounts as long as they are living in the same home.  The child who owns their own car is also eligible for several other discounts that their parents are eligible for.  (Including discounts resulting from home policies being with the same insurer as well) This could result in significant savings on the price of the policies.

Q: I was on the road during a snowfall and I've been in an accident.  How does the insurance company determine if I'm “at fault”?
A: There are a few factors that go into determining whether a driver is “at fault” for a collision or a loss. Certainly the police who show up at the scene of an accident are very helpful in determining what happened in the immediate aftermath of a collision. What is in their report is a crucial element in determining “fault” in the case of a collision.  The police report is not the end of the process, but one opinion that is taken into consideration once you've filed a claim.  Fault is ultimately determined by the “Fault Determination Rules” which are part of the Insurance Act.  These rules differ from province to province, but these rules are what your insurance company uses to determine fault in a collision. In Ontario, section 668 of the Insurance act specifically discusses this.

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Read up on Fault Determination Rules

  • Participants learned about these topics:

    • Collision avoidance and defensive driving techniques
    • How to drive in white outs, high winds, icy roads, black ice and how to anticipate these conditions before you leave home
    • Advice on how to prepare an emergency kit for your car and important car maintenance tips
    • Were able to ask a driving instructor, a police officer and an insurance representative about how to develop good driving habits, how to prepare for emergencies, what to do if they are in an accident and what every family ought to know about making changes to your auto insurance policy