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Q&A with an Edmonton driving instructor on winter driving

By Admin User on November 30, 2022

With Edmonton dipping into cooler temperatures and the snow and ice clinging to roads, it’s again time for defensive winter driving. Ray Gallinger, an in-car instructor from 1993 to 2009 at Northern Lights and now a Driver’s Education instructor at Glenn’s Driving School, shares some winter driving tips in a Q & A to help keep the roads safer this winter.

Q: How should Edmontonians prepare their vehicles for the winter season? 

A: “Get things checked out in your vehicle and have a mechanic check the strength of your coolant. Because if the weather is cool and you have that wind chill, the coolant’s going to freeze and you’re going to be in trouble. Next, have the battery tested to make sure the vehicle will start up in the cold weather. The other one is to make sure you have windshield washer fluid in the car. Don’t put a lot of summer washer fluid in the car at the beginning of August because you won’t use that much and the fluid will freeze up come winter.” 

Q: How much distance should there be between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you? 

A: “If the roads are bad, you would want to have at least a minimum of six seconds following distance. When traffic is starting up at a traffic light, one of the big mistakes that people make is they start up right away. You want that same four to six seconds start up behind the vehicle at the traffic lights, and if you’ve got a lot of exhaust hanging in the air, don’t move until you can see the vehicle in front of you because people have driven into the back ends of cars from starting up too soon. The number one driving error is that people are driving too close. You need to allow for a couple metres of space.” 

Q: What things should people keep in their vehicles for an emergency?  

A: “If you’re driving on the highway or outside of the city, it’s particularly important to have warm clothes and a slow burning candle to keep in the vehicle because if you’re stalled, burning that candle will keep you from freezing in the vehicle while you wait for help. If you’re going in deep snow and you’re having trouble with traction, kitty litter can be kept in the car. Kitty litter can be put under the wheels for better traction.”  

Q: What kind of tires should be on vehicles during winter? What’s your take on All-Season tires? 

A: “Vehicles with very little thread on them, even on All-Season tires, that’s a disaster come winter time. They did some tests on tires, where they compared the Goodyear Nordic winter tire versus the best All-Season tire. At 60 kilometres an hour on ice, when the All-Seasons stopped, the person continued for almost 14 metres further. One group found that even with Nordic winter tires 75 per cent worn, they only continued for three metres. Also, in Montreal where winter tires are mandatory, they find 30 per cent of deaths are prevented.”  

Q: How does a person recover from skidding on the road? 

A: “For a vehicle with an anti-lock braking system (ABS), don’t pump the brakes. Pumping the brakes will take longer to stop, and it could destroy the ABS. You want steady pressure on the brakes. When skidding, you always steer where you want the car to go. If your front end is going left, you steer to the right. Now, if you get that swishing sound, that’s telling you your wheels are locked up, and at that point you don’t have any steering. When you don’t have any steering ability, you need to ease off the brakes to regain braking power.”  

Q: What winter driving habits should someone focus on developing?  

A: “You want to get yourself down 10 to 15 kilometres below the speed limits in bad conditions. The other big mistake people make is not driving slowly enough on corners. People are driving the way they would with summer driving and lose control of the vehicle. Also, clean the snow off your cars, including the hood, the roof, the headlights and taillights. Otherwise, you’re comprising everyone else.” 

Q: How much extra time should a person give themselves to reach a destination? 

A: “That’s going to depend a lot on exactly where they’re going. Because you know, if you’re on a route where there’s not very many traffic lights, there’s not going to be much difference in time. But you generally want to allow yourself extra time. If you’re going eight or 10 blocks, give yourself an extra 10 minutes. Don’t push it to the last second because you don’t know what’s going to happen with the people in front of you.

The Driver’s Guide to Operation manual is available to all drivers for additional driving information. Alberta 511 also offers updated traffic and transit information in Alberta.

Glenn’s Driving school has served the Edmonton community for 42 years and is a 2022 Consumer Choice Award winner.



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