When is bad weather bad enough to stop driving?

Article By: Scott Marshall
Scott Marshall is Director of Training for Young Drivers of Canada.  He was a judge on the first 3 seasons of Canada’s Worst Driver on Discovery Network. Scott started writing columns on driving for his community paper since 2005.  Since then his columns have been printed in several publications including newspaper, magazines and various web-sites. You can visit his own blog at http://safedriving.wordpress.com.


Growing up a sports fan I watch how athletes push themselves to the limits during each game. Many of them even play while injured. For some athletes that works in their favour, but for others, it’s the start of their demise. The same can be said for drivers. Some drivers tend to push themselves when the weather begins to worsen but end up reaching their destination safely. Others find themselves stranded or in a collision. When is bad weather bad enough to stop driving?

Let’s say you’re starting your commute and as you continue, the weather begins to worsen, what do you do? Besides driving with your low beam headlights on, the first thing is to turn off the music and put on a local news and traffic station. They can let you know what the conditions further ahead may be like. They can also update you on the weather situation. If the bad weather makes it more difficult to drive, leave the roadway and if possible, turn back if you haven’t gone very far. Seeing vehicles in the ditch isn’t a good sign. Why wait until you can barely move your vehicle through the snow before you say that’s enough?

There are a few tips that can help you determine when it’s time to abandon your trip. If your visibility is poor enough that you have to drive very slow, it’s time to pull off the road. Also, if you’re having extreme trouble maintaining traction, even at low speeds, it’s time to pull off the road. But let’s look at this locally and proactively. Before you head to the store, the mall or even work, check the local weather information. Find out if it’s even worth driving at this time. If the roads are less congested with traffic, it allows the snow plows to do their job a little easier. Even if you wait another hour or so, the roads may be clearer and that would allow you to drive more safely.

If you’re already driving and the weather worsens, start looking for a safe place to pull off. Until you can get to a safe place to pull off the road, stay on main roads as they are more likely to be ploughed than quieter sub-divisions. Busier roads will also make it easier for you to drive and the tracks that the other vehicle have made will flatten the snow enough to help you move along. Keep extra space in front and the sides of your vehicle until you reach your destination. This will give you room to move in case your vehicle slides or in case the vehicles near you slide.

Nothing is really worth taking the risk of a crash. Equipping your vehicle with winter tires, a winter emergency kit and a full gas tank can help you cope in bad winter weather. However, staying home and relaxing may be your best solution. Being a smart driver is better than being a brave driver.