Driving in Adverse Conditions

The east coast of Canada has been experiencing a dramatic increase in severe weather events since 2021. Numerous factors are contributing to this shift in our climate but I’d like to point out another aspect to consider here; Driving in these conditions.

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RAIN

Lights-out at Intersections; these situations call for extreme caution

Of course it’s better to stay at home when the weather is bad, but there are times like family emergencies or other circumstances beyond your control, where you will have no choice but to drive. It would be better to have some experience with driving in adverse conditions as the stress of the emergency or other pressing circumstances, may be enough to handle on its own without the added stress of driving in bad weather. Being experienced at driving in these conditions reduces the anxiety they can produce, and being comfortable in these conditions will always help you make better decisions.

Hammonds Plains storm clouds moving into Bedford

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Tips for driving in the rain

  • Beware of the “sudsy” condition (the first 20 minutes will be the most slippery)
  • Reduce speed and increase following distance
  • Drive in the tracks of other vehicles
  • Accelerate and brake more gradually
  • Steer with smooth gentle motions
  • Don’t use cruise control

Driving in the rain

Something else to consider is that classic east coast saying; “if you don’t like the weather in Nova Scotia just wait 5 minutes for it to change”. We all know how true that is. So what if you are driving along a coastal road and you suddenly come across heavy fog or a sudden downpour that you weren’t expecting? What if your son or daughter as a new driver encounters a sudden situation like this, in which they must operate the vehicle with precision and poise, will they be ready? They will be if they are experienced in these conditions.

Driving In A Nova Scotia Storm

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Hydroplaning; Why Does Hydroplaning Happen?

Hydroplaning happens when the tires on your vehicle lose their grip and instead travel on water sitting on top of the road. Hydroplaning eliminates a driver’s ability to steer and brake. Hydroplaning is most likely to happen when there is standing water on the road. If you’re driving too fast, your car can’t move the water out of the way fast enough.

HYDROPLANING IN ICELAND COMPILATION

Some things to consider before hitting the road in Nova Scotia

What condition are your tires in? All tires have wear indicators built into the tread, so depsite what many will tell you about using a coin to measure your tread depth, you do not need to. Just reference the wear indicators. If the tire tread is flush or near flush to the treads, then you will want to have your favorite-trusted mechanic look at them to be sure of their condition. Generally 5/32’s is the minimum tread depth that is passable for MVI’s.

Wear indicators tell you how much tread you have left on your tires.
Like hockey skates or football cleats, the tires on your vehicle are what give you traction on the road. Tires are the single most important component of your vehicle. 

Are you familiar with your vehicle’s controls, such as the windshield wipers and heater controls? These two features will save your life, especially at highway speeds. Anyone driving in adverse conditions needs to know where these controls are without having to look at them.

Driving in Adverse Conditions – Nova Scotia

The ability to see clearly through your vehicle’s windshield is something many of us take for granted. But it only takes a couple of seconds for a big splash of water or slush to cover the windshield, causing you to be unable to see or navigate while driving.

Aston Martin Valkrie Wet Test

Not being able to steer would be a pretty scary thing to have happen, but imagine not being able to see. You can’t effectively steer, brake, stop or anything else if you can’t see through your windshield. Many beginner drivers are nervous about operating the windshield wipers but it’s something that everyone must learn to do. Memorizing your heater controls is another essential skill for driving in bad conditions.

Roaming on Highway 102 in the rain. 🌦

A simple splash of a puddle from a passing vehicle can blind you instantly. From the moment your vision is obscured to when you can reach the windshield wiper controls is the critical time to react. Being able to reach the wiper and heater controls without looking is essential and if it doesn’t save your life, it will at least save you some trouble in that split second.

Night Rider in the Rain

The weather on the east coast has been exceptionally epic over the past couple of years. At one point last winter, we were getting a massive snow or rain storms and then the same thing next weekend. There is no better time to learn to drive in these types of adverse conditions than now. Is it dangerous to drive in these conditions? Of course it is, but that’s why we make adjustments to the various factors and hazards in the driving environment to mitigate those dangers. When you are familiar with these conditions you become more comfortable in them and when you are comfortable you will always make better decisions.

Driving through a flood in Dartmouth Crossing

We want to make minor adjustments to multiple factors, which are going to add up to a whole lot safer of a drive. Here are some adjustments I make when driving in rain or snow, but keep in mind that the single most important adjustment you make in any of these conditions is to slow down:

Flooding in Halifax Nova Scotia

FOG

  • Always operate both gas and brake pedals gradually and gently.
  • Ensure that you have adequate heat on the windshield to prevent fogging.
  • Eliminate as many distractions as possible so you can focus on driving.
  • Don’t use your high beam headlights as they are useless in wet conditions.
  • Think ahead and see potential hazards well in advance so you can react in time.
  • The most important tip is to slow down and stay calm.

Fog: Driving in the fog can be hazardous. If you are caught driving in fog, reduce your speed and turn on the low beams. Increase your following distance, be patient and avoid trying to pass any vehicles. 

Driving In Fog

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The final critical aspect of this new driving environment to consider is poise and confidence. These are the two single most important things to have when you find yourself in a challenging driving situation. The tires can be new and the vehicle can have 4-wheel drive, but if the operator isn’t smooth and confident, it will have little effect on the outcome of a dangerous driving situation. There’s no better time to get a little practice driving in these conditions. Find a quiet side street or industrial park and just go slow and get a feel for the road.

SNOW

Let your vehicle warm up for at least 5 minutes, when it’s icy outside. This will allow the heat to free up the glass from the ice so that when you press the window switch it won’t break the window regulator. This is also much easier on your engine and better for your car and overall driving experience.

De-icing windows

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How to Handle Skids

  • When you skid, avoid the urge to hit the brakes. Always ease your foot off the pedal (s) when you feel the car is starting to slip.
  • If you feel your car beginning to skid, always look where you want to go not where the car is heading at that precise moment. Let your peripheral vision take care of whatever you’re trying to avoid. You almost always end up where you are looking.

When your tires start to slip, you will see this light flickering in the dash. It’s your Traction Control light and it’s telling you that your tires are slipping . This is also when, the computer is compensating by limiting power to certain wheels.

Tesla drifting on icetrack 

The most important aspect of what we have done here is, we have taken this mitigated risk of driving down the steepest hill in Halifax – in the snow – and by taking that risk we now have a student driver who is that much more experienced at driving in these challenging conditions. Now they have somewhat of a comfort level with these conditions, so when they are out driving by themselves and come across a similar situation, they will be comfortable which means they will be confident which means they will ALWAYS make a better choice when deciding how to react to a hazard.

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Driving down the steepest hill in Halifax in a snow storm

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You have to be in it to win it. Here we are on a lesson during a snow storm. We made adjustments to our speed, we did not use the brake pedal at all on the hill, and we shifted the car into its lowest gear which is L and sometimes it is referred to as 1. This is a mitigated danger but is still somewhat dangerous.

Driving In The Snow

Black Ice

Driving on black ice is like playing a game of Russian Roulette. The surface of the road will usually look clear, almost as if it’s just rain, but don’t get comfortable. That is the trick to driving on black ice. Never get comfortable, because the second you do, that is when black ice will show itself. You might drive 20 kms and not sense any slippage on the road surface but all it takes is one small patch of black ice to send you sliding into a spin.

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