Winter driving tips from James Hinchcliffe

Verizon Indycar® Series driver James Hinchcliffe may not have to deal with the snow and ice when he’s on the racetrack, but as a Canadian, he has first-hand knowledge of navigating snowy and icy roads in the winter.

We asked James to share some of his pro driving tips for winter driving.

Driving in a snow storm
Snow = Slow

When you’re driving in a snowstorm, you’re dealing with both low visibility and a slippery road surface. Both are good reasons for you to slow it down.

Give yourself some space

Keep a good distance between your vehicle and others around you. A 10-second gap would be considered a safe distance between you and the car in front of you. How do you gage this gap? A good rule of thumb is to watch the vehicle in front of you pass by a fixed object (e.g. a hydro pole or a road sign). You should count another 10 seconds before you pass by the same object.

Headlights help you be seen

When visibility is low, turn on your headlights so it’s easier for you to be seen by other drivers – even if it’s during the day.

Driving on icy roads
Always have snow tires

Not only do winter tires give you better traction, but they can also shorten your stopping distance by 25%*. A lot of people don’t like the idea of the extra expense, but a set of good snow tires is the cheapest insurance you can buy, says James. (By the way, if you live in Ontario, having winter tires can also help you save on your auto insurance.)

Don’t be in a rush

Everything needs to move slower in icy conditions, James advises. Take corners slowly, easing off the accelerator.

If you hit black ice…

Your first instinct might be to hit the brakes. Instead, James recommends that you stay calm and take your feet off the pedals. If the back end of your vehicle is sliding left, make a gentle turn in the same direction. If it’s sliding right, steer right. If you try to steer in the opposite direction, you could end up spinning out

One last tip

Make sure you have an emergency road kit for your vehicle. Not sure what to include? Check out our video, How to be ready for anything: The Roadside Emergency Kit.

*Source: Ontario Ministry of Transportation


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