Winter Driving in Toronto

Winter Driving in Toronto: Essential Skills and Safety Tips

Driving in Toronto and other Canadian provinces during the winter is a far cry from the warmer summer, fall, and spring seasons. The challenging weather conditions, such as blizzards, heavy snowfall, slush, and ice, reduce visibility and make handling your car on the road more difficult. As a result, the number of automobile accidents, car-related injuries, and fatalities rises substantially during the winter season.

Whether you’re relatively new on the road or a seasoned driver, driving in Toronto during the winter comes with its fair share of challenges. While it’s advisable to avoid driving on the wet, icy, and snowy roads during the Canadian winter, living, working, visiting, or passing through Toronto makes it impossible to avoid the road. Thus, it’s best to equip yourself with the proper knowledge and skills for winter driving. Heeding these simple but crucial tips will guarantee you and other road users a safer and more comfortable ride.

Prepare your Car for the Winter Season

Priming your vehicle for winter drives will help you avoid unnecessary hassle, make your journey more bearable, and help you get to your destination faster. Here are a few tips you should consider:

  • Service your car

The extreme winter weather will make your car’s performance more demanding than ordinary conditions. Thus, scheduling a maintenance appointment for the engine and other essential systems will ensure your vehicle is prepared to push through the harsh conditions without stalling or straining excessively. Beyond this, always test the car battery beforehand, ensure the headlights and other lights function optimally, and keep the gas tank at least half full to keep the car from stalling and the fuel line from freezing.

  • Install winter tires

Switching to winter tires is integral to safe driving in the hazardous and more challenging winter conditions in Toronto. The tires are unrivaled in traction and grip, outperforming all-season tires. They’re furnished with a softer rubber composite that enhances road grip by burrowing into ice and snow and adapting better to the road surface. Consecutively, winter tires improve the car’s stability when switching lanes on ice or slush and driving over snow-covered road surfaces.

Moreover, winter tires can enhance the vehicle’s brake performance by up to 35% when driving in demanding winter. It’s no wonder the Canadian Automobile Association recommends changing to winter tires when temperatures start falling consistently below 7 degrees Celsius.

  • Procure heavy-duty windshield Wipers

Winter weather will often be characterized by ice build-up and frequent snowing, requiring you to use the wipers longer and harder than usual. Therefore, consider getting heavy-duty winter wiper blades and defrosting a few minutes before kicking off a drive in the winter to clear the snow from the blades.

  • Clear out all the ice and snow before driving in winter

Excess ice and snow on the vehicle are dangerous to you and other road users as they can shear off obscure visibility and impede vital road portions or signage. Removing any ice or snow accumulated on the hood, roof, lights, and windows improves your visibility and makes your vehicle more visible to other drivers.

  • Restock your vehicle’s survival kit

A fully stocked car emergency kit can save you from a tricky winter situation or keep you comfortable until rescue arrives if rough winter weather immobilizes or strands you. It should contain:

  • Adequately stocked first aid kit
  • Ice scraper, shovel, and snowbrush
  • Cell phone and travel charger
  • Car booster cables
  • Road flares or warning lights
  • Cat litter or sand to improve wheel-road traction in case you get stuck in snow or ice
  • Extra warm clothes, footwear, and blankets
  • Flashlights with spare battery packs
  • Windshield washer fluid
  • Lighter or match-and-matchsticks
  • Candles
  • Bottled water and non-perishable and high-energy food supplies include candy, nuts, dried foods, juice, and granola bars.

How to drive effectively and safely in Toronto in winter

When driving in the foul winter weather and challenging road conditions, these tips can help you get to your desired place safely and faster:

  • Stay calm and composed when driving on slippery roads

You may often find your vehicle skidding on slippery, snowy, or icy roads. In such cases, you must maintain your composure and avoid slamming on the brakes or accelerating. Instead, pump the brakes lightly, step on the clutch or shift into neutral gear, and hold the steering wheel straight when skidding in a straight line.

If your car starts skidding in a turn, ease your foot off the brakes and accelerator and steer into the skid without oversteering to correct the skid.

  • Keep off cruise control and overdrive modes

Avoid driving in cruise control and overdrive modes in wet and slippery winter conditions, as you’ll have less control of your vehicle, limiting your reaction time and making the drive more dangerous.

  • Slow down and increase the distance between you and the vehicle ahead

Drive slowly to accommodate the poor road and weather conditions, and leave enough distance between you and the vehicle in front, particularly road maintenance vehicles like snowplows, to give yourself sufficient time and space to brake when necessary. Further, only overtake or change lanes when sure it’s safe. It’s better to take longer on the road and arrive safely. Remember, the other driver might not be experienced in winter driving, or their vehicle might lack the requisite winter tires.

  • Be super vigilant

Be extra alert and patient when driving in winter, especially in a blizzard (blowing snow), over black ice, navigating hills, and going downhill to spot dangers early enough to respond appropriately.

  • Dress appropriately

Layer up properly to stay warm, but ensure the clothing doesn’t hamper adequate vehicle access and control.

  • Alert someone

Let someone know your estimated arrival time so they can send help if you get into trouble on the road.


Winter conditions can get out of hand, leaving you stranded or stuck. If this happens, stay calm and avoid trying to lift or push your car yourself. Call for help, ensure the car’s tailpipe is free to prevent toxic carbon monoxide poisoning, and crank the windows open to let in fresh air.

Contact Yusra Driving School a driving school in Scarborough to learn driving.