Driving in Winter Conditions


You may recall our recent post about the Duty to Refuse Unsafe Work. In that post, we reminded readers that in the province of Alberta, refusing to do unsafe work is not just a right – it is a legal duty that all Alberta workers hold.

Did you know that an extreme winter storm is an example of imminent danger for driving under the Alberta OH&S Act?

The OH&S Act defines “imminent danger” as:

(2) In this section, “imminent danger” means in relation to any occupation

(a) a danger that is not normal for that occupation, or

(b) a danger under which a person engaged in that occupation would not normally carry out the person’s work.

While you’re thinking about winter driving, try taking this #ShiftIntoWinter quiz from the BC Winter Driving Safety Alliance!

Winter Driving Safety Tips

There is no shortage of safe winter driving resources online. We have compiled a list of some of the most important safe winter driving tips out there, but we encourage you to also check out the Alberta Government Fact Sheet and YouTube videos below.

  • Keep your vehicle in optimal driving condition and have winter tires installed before the snow flies.
  • Follow Alberta’s Official Road Reports and delay trips when conditions are poor. If you must leave, let others know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival before you leave. Keep a cell phone and emergency kit in your vehicle.
  • Brush all snow and ice off of windshield, windows, headlights and tail-lights. It is always a good idea to brush off the roof of your car as well, to avoid snow blowing onto your back windshield as you drive.
  • Ensure that your windshield and windows are fully defrosted before driving.
  • Be aware of snow and ice on the road and adjust your speed and following distance accordingly – remember: black ice is not easily visible, but you should be able to feel it out by lightly touching your brakes when safe to do so.
  • On ice, a vehicle can take up to 10 times longer to stop than in dry conditions. The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds (pick a stationary object along the side of the road, such as a streetlight or pole and count the seconds between when the car in front of you passes it and when you do).
  • Even if the road looks and feels relatively clear, maintain the increased winter following distance, as it is always possible for a patch of black ice to form.
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly to maintain control over your tires on slippery roads.
  • Never slam your brakes on winter roads. You should plan your stopping motion well ahead of time and touch your brakes lightly over a longer stretch of road.
  • If you begin to skid, do not brake! Stay calm, let off the gas, look where you want to go, and steer in that direction.
  • Even during daylight, keep your headlights on, especially when it is snowing.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full.

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Preparing an Emergency Car Kit

Have the appropriate safety and emergency winter equipment always stored in your car.

The basic emergency kit for cars should include the following items:

  • Food – that won’t spoil, such as energy bars
  • Water – in plastic bottles so they won’t break if frozen (change every six months)
  • Blanket
  • Extra clothing and shoes
  • First aid kit – with seatbelt cutter
  • Small shovel, scraper and snowbrush
  • Candle in a deep can and matches
  • Crank flashlight
  • Whistle – in case you need to attract attention
  • Roadmaps
  • Copy of your emergency plan

Also keep these inside your trunk:

  • Sand, salt or cat litter (non clumping)
  • Antifreeze/windshield washer fluid
  • Tow rope
  • Jumper cables
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Warning light or road flares

Click the image below to see the full Alberta Government Fact Sheet document


Transport Canada also provides excellent tips for safe winter driving, including a checklist for winterizing your car and step-by-step instructions for managing various types of skids.

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Winter Driving Tips from YouTube

If you search “winter driving tips” on YouTube, the results are endless. Below are some of the better videos available regarding winter driving conditions.

Snow Going: Winter Driving Tips from Snow.com

Top 5 Winter Driving Tips from Westworld Alberta

Winter Driving Tips from the City of Lethbridge

Tips for Safe Winter Driving from AAA

Winter Driving Tips on Braking from Michelin® Winter Driving Academy

Winter Driving Recovering from a Skid from AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety