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Drivers need to adjust for winter road conditions: SGI

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WATCH ABOVE: Snowy roads have kicked winter driving into high gear in Saskatchewan.

A white Monday morning had drivers in Saskatchewan scrambling to remember their winter driving skills.

SGI (Saskatchewan Government Insurance) said one of the main causes of collisions during winter months is drivers failing to adjust for changing conditions.

“We really encourage people to slow down, to increase following distance and to just be patient with other drivers as well,” SGI spokesperson Tyler McMurchy said.

SGI recommends drivers do a thorough scrape and brush off vehicles in winter conditions — including windows, lights and any excess on the body.

“Take that off as well because you don’t want to create a mini blizzard for the people travelling behind you,” McMurchy said.

READ MORE: Overnight snowfall creates slippery road conditions in and around Saskatoon

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SGI urged drivers to keep headlights on all the time. It also recommended heater air intakes be cleared, and tissue boxes, sunglasses and paper be kept away from defroster outlets.

Driving on slippery surfaces

The general rule for driving on slippery surfaces is “drive slowly,” SGI said, especially during the first few snowfalls of the season.

Special driving skills are needed in the winter and drivers should remember to accelerate gently, brake gently, and steer with small, smooth movements, McMurchy said.

“When you’re travelling on icy roads, we highly recommend not using cruise control because that can cause your tires to spin if you hit an icy patch,” he said.

Tire, service shops busy

Kal Tire sales manager Geoff Wiebe said drivers can confidently change to winter tires once temperatures average 7C or lower.

Even with that lead-up time, the shop on McDonald Street in Regina was busy on Monday, as drivers swapped out for winter, all-weather or studded tires.

“Your stopping distances are smaller, you’re able to control the vehicle around corners much better,” Wiebe said.

He added that tires with an actual metal spike in them will stop five metres sooner than a winter tire, and about 12 metres sooner on ice than an all-season.

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Winter tires are recommended by SGI and CAA Saskatchewan, however, the province doesn’t provide an overt incentive or penalty on use.

Christine Niemczyk with CAA Saskatchewan recommended drivers also do a complete vehicle check to be winter-ready.

“We often say the battery is the lifeline to your vehicle. When it’s -15C, time to plug-in,” Niemczyk said.

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U of S grads ready to put magnetic block heater plug on the market

Whether city or highway driving, CAA encouraged drivers to communicate about where they’re headed in winter months.

“Stick to the primary roads, stay with your vehicle, let others know your travel plans. You’ve got your fully charged phone with you and even take your portable charger with you as well,” she said.

Items to keep in vehicles

Although not an all-inclusive list, SGI recommends having the following items in a vehicle during winter driving season:

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  • snow brush and scrapper;
  • gas line antifreeze;
  • small snow shovel;
  • traction mats; and
  • booster cables.

READ MORE: Myth-busting winter driving wives’ tales

For longer trips, the following survival items should be included:

  • extra warm clothes, including footwear, mitts and hats;
  • candles and matches;
  • tow chain or rope;
  • nourishing freezable foods such as raisins, nuts and candy; and
  • sleeping bags.

The latest road conditions can be found online at the Highway Hotline website.

-With files from Daniella Ponticelli