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Winter driving in Winnipeg

Deb Matejicka
Calgary bureau reporter

Tuesday, February 25, 2014, 2:53 PM -

If anyone understands the meaning of winter, it's the folks in Winnipeg and who better to give us tips on winter driving than the boys in blue, who must make it to each and every call safely and quickly? 

The following are the top four winter driving tips from the WPS with video examples included above.

Winter Driving Tip #1: 12 Second Eye Lead

High eye lead is paying attention further down the roadway than the front of your vehicle. According to the WPS, the minimum professional driving standard for high eye lead is paying attention to something 12 seconds down the roadway ahead of you.

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The benefit of high eye lead is recognizing hazards and obstacles in the distance early enough to react to them smoothly and safely.

In the following video, Constable Ken Azaransky of the WPS provides us with an example of the benefits of high lead. He recognizes a hazard far in the distance, and as he approaches it, he is able to avoid it smoothly and effectively. 

Winter Driving Tip #2: Understeering 

Whatever the weather conditions may be, the WPS advises to drive within them. In fact, they can't stress this enough and in the winter, this advice becomes particularly important because the roads are almost always icy and slick. 

When we don't drive to the conditions, the WPS' Constable Ken Azaransky says we are likely to experience a common driving error called an understeer.

An understeer almost always occurs on an icy road when a driver reacts too late to a hazard and has to slam on the brakes and jerk the steering wheel one way or the other– that hazard might be the car in front of you that you're following too closely and suddenly stops or it could be you arriving at an intersection too quickly or travelling into a turn with too much speed – whatever that hazard may be, you are likely going to encounter a skid – or understeer – because you have jerked hard on the steering while slamming on your brakes, disrupting the vehicle dynamics and stabilization. 

The following video shows us exactly what an understeer looks like.


Winter Driving Tip #3: Avoiding Over Confidence in All Wheel Drive 

These days, more and more vehicles are coming equipped with all wheel drive. It can be a great asset but it can also breed over-confidence in drivers, particularly when it comes to winter driving.

The WPS says this over-confidence comes from the fact that even on an icy road, an all wheel drive vehicle can pick up speed quite quickly and smoothly, leading drivers to think they've got great traction despite slick surfaces.

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The problem is when it comes to stopping almost all vehicles, even those equipped with all wheel drive, react pretty much the same if you're driving too fast for the conditions - that is, that they will slip on the road and enter a skid or oversteer.

Even if you don't enter into a skid, the stopping distance will be dramatically increased than if you had simply been driving to the conditions. Constable Ken Azaransky of the WPS shows us how easy it is to accelerate in an all wheel drive vehicle but how difficult it is to stop as intended in the next video.

Winter Driving Tip #4: Trusting in your vehicle's Electronic Stability Control system

Since 2011, all vehicles manufactured in Canada must be equipped with Electronic Stability Control or ESC, which is essentially a computer that controls your vehicle's braking and acceleration during times of instability. 

Simply put, your car's ESC system is going to help you stay in control of your vehicle when you suddenly need to brake or swerve to avoid a hazard or an obstacle. 

The ESC can detect when your steering doesn't match the direction of your vehicle or when you've lost control of your steering.

When that happens, it will automatically brake individual wheels, reduce power to the engine, or both. 

According to its website, Transport Canada "has been testing vehicles with ESC since 2004 and found that the improvement in vehicle stability due to ESC was impressive. Data gathered by Transport Canada indicates that vehicles equipped with ESC were involved in approximately 30 per cent fewer severe collisions involving loss of control than non-ESC equipped vehicles. Based on 2006 collision data, if all passenger vehicles were equipped with ESC, there would be at least 225 fewer deaths and 755 fewer people seriously injured on our roads each year." 

In the following video, Constable Ken Azaransky of the Winnipeg Police Service shows us why you can trust in your ESC system.

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