Driving in your first winter? Three new drivers share their tips
For most Canadians, driving on the harshest days of winter is inevitable. And for new drivers, it’s a rite of passage.
Some of us grow up watching our loved ones navigate blizzards and icy roads, which shapes our responses, attitudes and even anxieties. Others arrive elsewhere in the world, perhaps without ever having seen snow in their life, uncertain of the challenges that await them.
These three drivers are all new license holders and have been riding their first Canadian winters solo over the past two years. Here they share their views on the lessons they learned during their early experiences.
Quinn Young, 18, The Pas, Man.
Quinn received his driver’s license in the summer of 2020 and drove alone in winter conditions for the first time a few months later. Having been raised in the Far North by parents who owned a car dealership, he grew up around cars and winter conditions and had a sense of what to expect. Still, he remembers a close call that quickly put the challenges of winter driving in perspective.
“I was on my way to work one day, I was walking down the road and a vehicle pulled up in front of me,” Quinn says. “Either they were behind a snow bank and they didn’t see me, or they didn’t stop at the stop sign. I put my brakes on and got so close that I couldn’t even see their taillights under my hood.
This experience leads to Quinn’s first tip for other new drivers: “Keep an eye out for other drivers because you never know what they’re going to do.” “
His experience growing up around cars has given him plenty of opportunities to learn about vehicle features and how they work, and he suggests other drivers do the same.
“Some vehicles have a differential lock,” he says, “and it’s really good in snow and ice, but horrible to turn. Almost every vehicle these days has traction control, (which is) good on ice but bad in deep snow. … It’s something I’ve known for years since I’ve always been around vehicles, but a lot of people don’t.
Finally, Quinn points out that a little self-awareness goes a long way.
“Know how quickly you react to something and how you are going to react to something,” he says. “Know your limits. “
Amritha R., 38, Etobicoke, Ont.
Amritha previously drove in Guyana, her home country, but when she moved to Canada, she found she could count on her pedestrian precinct, the accessibility of the VTC and her husband. But once she had a second child and the pandemic made transit options more difficult, she decided it was time to get her driver’s license to make errands like grocery shopping easier.
“It was good during the summer months, but then I got really nervous because I kept hearing all these stories (that) people turn into crazy drivers when it rains or snows,” says -she. “I’m just paranoid when I drive with my kids. Alone, I’m fine, but when I’m with my kids I’m very careful.
Amritha says she regularly receives advice from her husband, who has more experience in winter driving, and that spending time on the snowy roads with someone she trusts has helped her gain confidence. .
“He gave me a few tips, like don’t push the brakes too hard, allow time to brake and don’t follow too closely,” she said.
YouTube has been a great resource for Amritha, she says, as she finds video walkthroughs helpful in visualizing how to deal with the different situations she may find herself in on the road.
“It’s my kind of personality that I love to research everything about,” Amritha says. “There is a Young Drivers YouTube channel (operated by Young Drivers of Canada), and they go through a lot of scenarios with you. “
Jared Friesen, 18, Miami, Man.
Jared got his license in September 2019, and in his brief solo winter driving career since then he admits to putting his mother’s car in a ditch.
“A bunch of friends and I decided to go out,” he explains. “We took his car because it could accommodate more people. It was blowing snow and we made a turn. I turned around too early because I couldn’t see very well, so I put him in the ditch.
And what lesson did he learn from this experience?
“I’m taking my time,” he says.
He also learned the importance of adapting his driving to road conditions and of operating a well-prepared vehicle.
“Always slow down earlier, always take the turns a little slower,” he says. “Use winter tires. I don’t drive in all seasons (in winter) because I know how better winters are. You have a lot more traction.
There is a common theme to all of these observations: They involve the same advice you will get from industry experts. Slow down, use winter tires, take the time to train yourself, and learn about your car’s tools and how to use them. Winter driving can be intimidating, but it can be made easier once it gets down to the basics.