Tips for Driving In Poor Road and Weather Conditions

Most collisions in winter and early spring are caused from driving too fast and following too close — which is the number one cause of casualty collisions in Alberta. We sometimes forget that it takes longer to stop on roads with slush, ice, or snow. The following tips will show how you can make a few adjustments when driving in bad weather or on poor roads.

Tip #1: Watch Your Speed

Speed limits posted on roads and highways indicate the maximum speed you can travel at based on ideal road and weather conditions. When conditions are less than ideal (wet, slushy, or snow covered roads or driving when it is snowing, foggy, or raining) you should:

  • Adjust your speed and slow down.
  • Drive at a speed so you can safely control your vehicle.
  • Never use cruise control on wet or slippery roads.
  • Look at least 15 to 20 seconds ahead and slow down if your visibility is reduced.
  • Use extra caution when approaching highway maintenance equipment and never pass on the right.

Tip #2: Leave Some Space

It can take up to three times the distance to stop your vehicle on soft or loose snow, and up to 12 times longer to stop your vehicle on icy winter roads, compared to driving on dry pavement.

Measure how much space to leave between your vehicle and the one ahead of you by keeping a minimum 3 seconds of space between you and the vehicle you are following.

  • Look at the vehicle in front of you.
  • When the back of that vehicle passes a fixed object such as a sign, tree, or road marking, start counting (one-thousand-and-one, one-thousand-and-two, one-thousand-and-three).
  • If the front of your vehicle reaches the object before you are finished counting, you are following too close.
  • Slow your vehicle down and count once more. If someone cuts in front of you, you will need to set up your three-second following distance again.
  • Three-second rule will need to increase when driving on low traction surfaces. The only exception to this is for drivers of large commercial vehicles who should use a minimum 4-second following distance in traffic.

Tip #3: Stopping in Traffic

When stopping in traffic, always look for ways to move out of the way when needed.

  • Leave at least one vehicle space between you and the vehicle stopped in front of you. This will protect you from sliding into it if the road surface happens to be more slippery than you anticipated. In winter months, roads are slick any place you find braking or acceleration, such as at an intersection and areas with curves.
  • Leave some space in case you get stuck behind a stalled vehicle in traffic or get rear-ended by another vehicle.
  • Always use extra caution when coming to a stop behind a large vehicle on an incline.

Tip #4: Before You Leave

  • Be prepared and dress for the weather conditions – even if you are travelling just a few blocks.
  • Clear your windshield, lights and windows to give you proper visibility.
  • Keep your gas tank full. A less-than-full tank is at greater risk of condensation and may cause gas-line freezing plus, you’ll reduce the risk of running out of gas when travelling.

Take our quiz to find out well you’d do when driving in less than ideal road and weather conditions.


I am an Online Content Specialist from Edmonton at the AMA. Am happiest when it is gloriously gloomy outside.