Winter Driving and Cruise Control – A Good Idea?

By December 18, 2014Travel, Travel BC

Many will be travelling over the the Christmas holidays and, though we’ve had a warm and wet winter in the Lower Mainland, it is still winter in other parts of the province and the country, We thought a few good winter driving tips were in order if you’re heading out into winter over the next couple of weeks.

Winter Driving and Cruise Control – A Good Idea?

From Thinking

Winter — snow, ice, wet and cold — creates special challenges for drivers of any level. Keeping your
vehicle in good technical repair reduces the overall chances for any mishap or disaster while driving.
A good driver anticipates crises and avoids them. Some tips on safely driving in winter conditions includes:

• Make sure your vehicle is properly tuned and serviced;
the battery is good, the exhaust system has no leaks, and
the lights (headlights, emergency flashers, indicators,
taillights, brake lights, etc, are working.

• Use tires appropriate for winter conditions. The
traction between tires and roadway determines how well
a vehicle rides, turns and stops, and is crucial for safe
driving in winter. Installing snow tires on all four wheels
will provide a greater amount of traction and control.

• Regularly check tire tread. Check tire pressure at
least once a month. The pressure drops about 1 psi for
every 5°C (9°F) drop in temperature.

• Ensure you have anti-freeze, and de-icing solution in
the windshield washer tank. Make sure you have good
windshield wiper blades that do not streak.

• Keep your fuel tank topped up — the driving time to
the next gas station may take much longer than
expected, and if you get stuck, the car engine will be
your only source of heat. A full tank will collect less
condensation and reduce the chance of water freezing in
the fuel line.

• Carry a snow scraper and brush, a flashlight and a
blanket. In more remote areas, drivers should consider
carrying an extensive emergency kit in the vehicle.

• If you do get stuck in the snow keep a window slightly
open, and run the engine and heater to keep warm.

Cruise Control
Of all the innovations in vehicle design, perhaps none is more convenient than cruise control.
It’s an easy way to control speed on the highway, which makes you, as a driver, less likely to speed
inadvertently. Cruise control is also useful for long trips because it often results in greater fuel

However what many people don’t know is that, under some conditions, using cruise control can also be
dangerous. The system is designed for ideal road conditions but on slippery surfaces it can actually
cause your vehicle to go into a skid.

This is a particular concern during the winter. Snow, ice, slush and rain can cause wheel-spin and loss
of control; the only way to prevent a skid in this situation is to immediately reduce power. However an
activated cruise control system will continue to apply power, keeping the wheels spinning and you may
lose control of your vehicle. By the time you turn off the cruise control it may be too late to regain

It’s not just a winter problem either. Using cruise control during heavy rain can cause your vehicle to
hydroplane – a loss of control due to a layer of water between your tires and the road. The risk is
especially high if you drive across a patch of deep water.

Unfortunately, driving without cruise control doesn’t guarantee that you’ll avoid a skid when road
conditions are poor. If you begin to lose control of your vehicle, it’s important to know what to do:

• Avoid slamming on the brakes – it’s dangerous and puts you at an even greater risk of a collision.
Instead, remain calm and brake gently, look where you want to go and steer in that direction.

• Whatever the road conditions, remember that cruise control shouldn’t be used on roads where many
speed adjustments are required. These include winding roads, lanes with heavy traffic and city and
suburban streets.

• Be sure to turn your cruise control off when it’s not in use, rather than simply disengaging it with
the brakes. Otherwise you might accidentally hit a button and reset the system, surprising you as a
driver and increasing the likelihood of a collision.

Like most conveniences, knowing when to use cruise control is as important as knowing how to use it.
Understanding both will help keep you and everyone on the road safe.

For More On Good Driving Habits Go To Thinking
To subscribe to Thinking’s newsletter call: 1-877-250-5601 or email

Leave a Reply