Preparation, anticipation and reaction: they’re vital keys to driving safely and confidently in winter weather. Just as you switch your T-shirt for coat and mittens, you need to adjust your driving habits from summer to winter.

“People seem surprised and shocked that a wet, slippery road isn’t going to stop them as fast as a dry road,” says Scott Marshall, director of training for Young Drivers of Canada.

On the road, leave more space between your car and others ahead than you might in summer.

“Most drivers forget that in order to respond to a driver in front, we need time to see, to react, and then to stop,” Marshall says. “All year round, people make the mistake of allowing a couple of car lengths. It should be at least two seconds instead, and if the road is snow-covered, double that space. Also, never drive beside someone else. Don’t trust that the driver isn’t going to swerve when he hits ice. Always have a space beside you at all times.”

Many drivers dread “black ice,” a thin frozen layer that’s often difficult to see, and which claims a huge number of drivers each season. Rather than fear it, you should anticipate it, Marshall says. “You can predict where it might be. It will be in areas where the sun doesn’t melt it, like a tree-laden road, or under bridges or tunnels.”

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