Category: Articles

Spring Driving Safety Tips

Originally posted by Cameron McKay – via

We love spring. But we also recognize that the season of warmer weather comes at a price – and mosquitoes are the least it. Most notably, from a road safety perspective, 28% of all fatal collisions in Alberta occur between April and June.

It’s a staggering number that can be reduced with good driver vigilance. Here are some safe driving tips to remember once spring has sprung.

Prep Your Vehicle

Safety begins before you get behind the wheel
  • Replace windshield wiper blades that leave streaks or don’t clear the glass in a single swipe.
  • To ensure visibility during bad weather, keep all headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals clean and functioning. (As a rule, turn on your headlights whenever you drive.)
  • Keep your tires properly inflated and make sure they have plenty of tread. Studies show that a 3 mm-deep tread can stop a vehicle on wet pavement in a 25% shorter distance than a tire with a 1.5 mm-deep tread. Need a new set of tires? AMA members save 5% at Kal Tire.
  • Winter tires should be left on until the ambient temperature stays above 7 degrees Celsius on average.

Look Out for Pedestrians

Warm weather means more people outside
  • Slow down and be extra cautious in pedestrian corridors, playground zones and school zones.
  • If a yellow pedestrian-activated traffic light is flashing, slow to 30 km/h and yield to pedestrians wanting to cross the street. (Not stopping for pedestrians at a crosswalk results in a $776 fine and four demerit points.)
  • Be wary of pedestrians who may be fixated on their electronic devices and aren’t paying due attention to traffic.

Watch for Wildlife

Animals are on the move
  • Be aware that it’s the time of year when animals come out of hibernation and are foraging for food.
  • Many animals are more active at dawn and dusk.
  • Watch for animal-crossing signs, reduce your speed, look well ahead and scan aggressively.
  • Animals often move in groups. If you pass one animal, slow down because there may be more.
  • If it looks like you’re going to hit a large animal, try to strike it at an angle to reduce the chance of it coming through your windshield. Let up on the brakes just before hitting the animal. Statistics show 54% of crashes on Alberta rural highways involve an animal, and 4% of those crashes result in human casualties.
  • In urban areas, you still need to be on the lookout for animals. You may encounter animals roaming near parks, wooded areas, river valleys, open green space, or city outskirts.

Beware of Flooding

Meltwater combined with spring rain can cause localized flooding
  • Never try to cross the flooded section of a road, as the pavement underneath may be washed out. Instead, turn around and look for an alternate route.
  • Avoid driving through large puddles. Deep water can stall your engine, impede your brakes, impair your vision, and even cause the vehicle to hydroplane.
  • When conditions are wet or slushy, drive at a speed whereby you can easily control your vehicle, and maintain a following distance of four to six seconds.
  • Never use cruise control on wet or slippery roads.
  • To reduce the risk of hydroplaning, make sure you have tires with good tread to displace water, lower your speed, avoid hard braking or turning sharply, and try to drive in the tracks of the vehicle ahead of you.

Share the Road

Spring means road maintenance crews, cyclists and motorcyclists
  • Give maintenance crews plenty of space and adhere to all posted speed limit signs in those areas. In construction zones, always obey the flag person’s signal and be prepared to slow down and/or stop when entering work zones. (When workers are present, fines for speeding in construction zones are doubled.)
  • Mirror check, and check your blind spot, prior to all horizontal movement.
  • When turning left, scan for oncoming motorcycles. Motorcyclists can be hard to see, especially in heavy traffic or at night, and are often moving at a faster speed than it appears.
  • To help avoid construction delays, check AMA Road Reports interactive map ahead of time and use an alternate route if possible.

Follow These Tips

Other reminders for spring driving
  • Use low-beam headlights in the rain or fog.
  • Keep your windshield washer fluid topped up.
  • If you can’t avoid a pothole, brake just before impact.
  • In rural areas, scan at least 20 seconds ahead of your vehicle.
  • Stay out of other drivers’ blind spots (particularly semi-trucks and other large vehicles).
  • Obey all speed limits and drive to conditions.
  • On long road trips, schedule a break about every two hours.

How to Check Your Car’s Tire Tread

Originally posted by Cameron McKay – via

Your car’s tire tread is important—a proper tread improves your traction on the road and prevents you from skidding off the road whenever you go around a corner. Checking your tire tread is easy (the only tool you need is a toonie!).

How to Check Your Car’s Tire Tread: Step-by-Step

Put the outside edge of the toonie in your tire’s tread.

  • If the tread reaches the bear’s paws, your tires are probably pretty new.
  • If it reaches all the way across the silver, they’re about 50% worn.
  • If your tire tread reaches only about half-way into the letters, it’s time to shop for new tires.

Tip: If you’re looking for a more accurate measurement, you can buy a tread depth gauge at most auto parts store and gas stations. Did you know? AMA members save 10% on retail priced parts and accessories at NAPA auto parts.

How to Check Tire Tread Wear Indicators

Some tires feature built-in tread wear indicators along the tire grooves that mark the minimum acceptable tread depth. If these indicators are worn down then it’s probably time to replace your tires.

Quick Tips to Keep Your Car Clean During COVID

Originally posted by Dan Heyman – via

As kids and parents prepare to plan for schools reopening – if they reopen, that is, as the jury is still out on whether or not COVID-related closures should continue into the school year – and prepare to formulate plans on how to best ensure that the kids are travelling to and from school in as clean an environment as possible (and that everyone else is once your kids step out), keeping your vehicle clean is more important than ever before.

Of course, the need to clean one’s vehicle regularly is not such a simple ask. We all lead busy lives and after household duties, work and any leisure activities we and our children are able to enjoy, car cleaning tends to fall pretty far down the list. Now, however, while we’ve all become adept and cleaning our childrens’ hands when they return home from any activity, we need to do the same for our cars if we’re going to be using them for school runs.

If your busy schedules don’t allow for entire interior detailing appointments every time your kids step out of the car – and if your lives are anything like ours, we doubt they do – here are a few helpful tips on from us and an expert in the field of auto detailing on how to keep your car clean “on-the-fly”, as it were.

Ed Marchese is the general manager of J.S. Auto Detail and Media Fleet Services in Vancouver, B.C. His company provides services from basic cleaning and detailing all the way up to professional cut and polish services, and while many of his clients are bringing in their own personal cars, he also services various fleets from the film and TV industry, the public sector and importantly for journalists, the fleet vehicles that we are provided for car testing.

While wiping a car down is important, Marchese says it’s not as simple as one may think: “Do not use Clorox, Lysol wipes or bleach for interior cleaning. Those will ruin the leather and plastics over time. For at-home use, (warm water) and dish soap is the best choice.”

Having said that, he does say that there are various companies that develop Lysol wipe-style systems specific for automobiles. Turtle Wax, Armor All and Meguiar’s all make wipes that are vehicle-interior specific. Canadian Tire has these and others available online.

When it comes to press fleet distribution, Mondays tend to be the busiest as that’s typically when journalists swap cars. Before COVID, Marchese would be able to clean and turn around a car in an hour. Now, however, manufacturers are requiring more precise cleanup jobs, roughly doubling the time it takes Marchese and his team to prep the interior of a car; according to him, what used to take 20 minutes now takes 40 minutes. Of course, not everyone has 40 minutes to spare whenever they get the kids back home from school, so there are certain areas that Marchese says one needs to focus on:

If you’re not using a child’s seat, this is probably #1 on your punch list when it comes to cleaning and disinfecting. Seatbelts and their buckles get manhandled every which way and since they sit so low in the car and can get buried in seat cushions, they aren’t as susceptible to the UV exposure that we’ve learned tends to kill COVID. Clean these. Clean them well, and clean them often. While working over a whole interior may take time, wiping down seatbelts does not.

And while we’re on the subject of “must-clean”, make sure you get on these, and quick. The storage bin cover between the front seats, the armrests mounted to the doors and of course those on either side of second-row captain’s chairs in SUVs and minivans should all be taken care of. Since they’re usually pretty broad surfaces, this should take even less time than the seatbelts. A helpful reminder: don’t just clean the armrests on your doors – you’ll want to clean the area on the door card mounted behind them as well.

Once you’ve done the armrests it makes sense to move to the door pulls and releases, as they tend to be part of the same assembly as the armrest. Like the armrests, these are the one area that will get lots of traffic.

Also in this general vicinity are the window and door lock controls – be sure to give them a scrub as they are fun for kids to play with even if they have absolutely no intention of actually rolling down the windows. Although, while summer is waning, there’s still plenty of hot weather to come and those window controls are going to get used.

Cleaning all the buttons and knobs up front is important – and can be somewhat time-consuming – but don’t let that have you forget to clean the rear seat climate control buttons, usually mounted to the rear of the centre console. These can be reached by kids sat in the back, and will be as we continue to deal with warmer temperatures. Again, an easy job that shouldn’t take too long.

So that takes care of the kids. What if you happen to share your car with someone else? Perhaps your teenager has just got their learner’s permit, and wants to go out with some friends…

Obvious, yeah? Well, not so fast. While one might quickly scrub the wheel rim down, there’s a lot more to it than that. The steering wheel hub – often the landing spot for airborne spittle – should not be forgotten, nor should the spokes. Also: wheels these days contain ever more complex button sets; each button should be paid close attention to. And don’t forget the steering column adjust lever or button, either.

The gear lever is probably the next most-obvious arear to make sure you cover during wipe-down. Forget these at your peril.

One should remember that seat controls should be carefully cleaned, as they are oh-so-appealing to toy with. I know, as my daughter loves them. Be sure to give them a scrub, as well as the fore/aft levers below the seat cushions. If you have older kids that can safely sit in the front passenger seat, then chances are that glovebox lever is either going to get played with or brushed against once or twice. And don’t forget about that neat little fold-out sunglasses door at the top of your windscreen because before you know it, you’ll instinctively reach for it and realize that it didn’t receive the once-over.

These are easy to forget since they’re so neatly tucked away and barely used…until they are. Worth a once-over, considering how quickly it can be done.

While it is suggested that UV exposure can take care of surface-level COVID in about five minutes, it would still pay to make sure that your door handles are good to go. Stay ahead of the game on these, as you’ll likely not be quick enough once you park to get a wipe on those handles before the kiddies are ripping them open, eager to get back home for a quick spot of Fortnite before dinner. The exterior trunk release, meanwhile, is important because, as Marchese says, “it’s an (often) forgotten touch point”. So don’t forget it. Maybe give your backup camera lens a wipe while you’re at it? They usually tend to reside in similar environs.

We’ve seen dividers between front and back seats for years in taxi cabs and so on, but the onset of COVID has more regular folks installing these in their cars as well. They’re more the domain of Lyft drivers and so on, but if you want to be extra-super-safe, there are companies throughout Canada that are fabricating these for public sale. Check out Scene Ideas in Vancouver and Vision Glass in Toronto to see how to cab-ify your car.

How to Take a Quarantine Getaway Road Trip

Originally posted by MEDEA GIORDANO – via

You might have had to cancel your trip to Hawaii, but you can still go on an end-of-summer expedition.

Summer is synonymous with vacations. Whether you prefer all-out island trips or you’re more like me and take weekend trips away at a friend’s house, quarantine has probably (at best) interrupted your plans. Some states have started opening up in phases, but it’s still not a good idea to get on a plane or head to a busy tourist destination anytime soon. Most other countries have travel restrictions anyway.

But that doesn’t mean cabin fever hasn’t been creeping in. Thankfully, there are things you can do to get out of the space you’ve been occupying nearly 24/7 for the past five months. This is not the time to take a cross-country road trip in search of yourself like Britney Spears in Crossroads, but you can still drive to unique places nearby. Here’s how to safely take a road trip and some suggestions on what to bring.

If you can’t get away, we have recommendations on ways to stay entertained at home. Check out our guides to phone games to survive social distancing, gear for making beer, wine, cider, and mead, how to stay sane in quarantine, and how to stay productive through it all.

Find a Spot in Your State (and Be Smart About It)

The Destination

Right now, we need to be more mindful of where we’re going and who we’re seeing. You probably shouldn’t be traveling out of state, but if you do, many states now require visitors to quarantine for 14 days. (You need to do the same when you return to your home state.) Skip public pools and tourist attractions. And if there’s any chance you could be infected with Covid-19, or you’re just not feeling well, call your doctor and do not leave your house.

If you’ve been quarantining and need to get out, think about the places close by that you have overlooked. Do you live near a weird roadside attraction that probably won’t be overrun with people? A historic landmark? Or maybe you’re near a lake or a national park that’s reopened? You’ll need to do some Googling to find results in your home state (this seems like a handy website to check). Find somewhere nearby, pack a lunch, and make a day trip out of it, or find a socially distanced campground and stay the night (or three).

If you’re near one of the 12 cabin sites offered by Getaway, they’re open at limited capacity to maintain distance. Check-in and check-out are contact-free, the cabins are between 50 and 150 feet apart (depending on the outpost), and there are no communal spaces for strangers to interact.

Take Extra Precautions

How to Stay Safe

If you find yourself around others at any point on your trip, make sure you wear a face mask. You can buy nice masks or make your own. You’ll need to wash them relatively frequently, so bring a few extras. Washing your hands is just as important if not more. It won’t be easy on a road trip, so you can either bring a lot of water in reusable bottles or pack enough hand sanitizer for everyone. (We have a guide on how to make some yourself.)

A gas can will minimize social interactions on your trip too. But if you don’t want to do that, put on disposable gloves before you touch a gas pump; take the gloves off immediately after—don’t touch your door, your phone, and your face—and sanitize your hands. And please, do not throw dirty gloves on the ground.

Not every public bathroom is closed, but many are. If you’re going to a campground, ask beforehand whether the public bathrooms are open, and check the status of any rest stops along the way. You may need to prepare for going in the woods.

If You Need to Rent a Car


If you don’t own a car, you can still get away by renting one. Prices will vary depending on the type of car you need, the length of your trip, and how far you’re taking it. WIRED writer Matt Jancer recommends Enterprise, but he says Hertz and Avis are solid alternatives if the price is right. Discount rental car services, like Thrifty and Dollar, can be hit or miss. All the top services are thoroughly cleaning cars between customers. (You can find statements on their websites for Enterprise, Hertz, and Avis), but we recommend going through the car with disinfectant wipes just to be safe.

If you don’t want to rent a car (or don’t have a driver’s license), we suggest waiting this one out. Public transportation might be running, but there are a lot of unknowns when you’re getting on a bus or train.

Don’t Overpack

The Basics

Depending on how far you’re going and how long you plan to stay, consider the following basics:

  • Comfortable sneakers or hiking boots. And if you’re so inclined, Birkenstock EVAs for relaxing.
  • Extra socks and underwear.
  • Face masks. You’ll likely have to stop for gas or interact with people at some point.
  • Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. You may need to search the depths of your local grocery store for either.
  • Disposable gloves. These are handy for when you need to touch things like bathroom door handles and gas pumps.
  • A bag. You probably have one already, but if you need a good weekender, we really like this one from Baboon to the Moon ($149). It comes in fun colors and styles. You can also check out the company’s 22L Backpack ($89), which should be able to fit everything you need.

Here are some extras you might be into, depending on your plans:

  • Layers. Depending on where you are, temperatures can dip at night.
  • A Kindle. These ebook readers are affordable, and you don’t need to charge them for several weeks. Bring one so everyone can choose a scary story to read around the campfire.
  • An instant camera. Phone cameras are superb, but taking pictures on an actual camera is an unbeatable feeling.
  • A Nintendo Switch Lite. If you have one, don’t forget to pack it! Nintendo’s little console is a great way to pass the time in the car if you’re not driving or navigating.

The Case for a GPS

Garmin Drive 52 GPS

Yes, Google Maps on your smartphone is likely all you need, but if you’re going to an area where your phone may lose service (or you want to limit your data usage) get a dedicated GPS device. You can download maps to use offline on your phone, but if you get lost or have a last-minute change of plans, you’ll need internet to figure out where you are. Having a GPS as a backup is important. This Garmin I bought in 2014 is still my most coveted piece of tech. You don’t need the latest and greatest—though they’re quite nice. Any Garmin GPS still in production will do.

Bring Your Food and Drinks

Pelican Elite 20QT

It doesn’t matter if your trip is going to last a day or a full weekend, you should pack lunch, dinner, and extra snacks and drinks. At a time where it’s up in the air whether restaurants or food halls are open, and you’re trying to limit contact with other people as much as possible, it makes sense to have it all with you. You’ll need to keep it all fresh and cool, so a cooler will come in handy.

We have a guide filled with coolers we like for all situations and budgets, but the Pelican Elite 20QT is our choice for road trips because it’s tall and narrow. It fits into most trunks or back seats. In our testing, ice stayed frozen for two days, even after being driven around and stored outside in 80-degree weather. It has four cupholders with drains, so it can be used as a small drink table too.

A Comfortable Shelter

Coleman 4-Person Cabin Tent

You probably don’t need a tent that’s super luxurious or ultra-lightweight for a casual road trip, so you have ample affordable options. WIRED senior writer Adrienne So loves all things Coleman, and its $190 4-Person Cabin Tent—with a screened “porch,” nonetheless!—should give most people enough headroom, and it fits a queen-sized air mattress.

We haven’t tried the Ozark Trail 6-Person Instant Cabin Tent, but it’s a popular brand among campers and costs just $125, with enough room for two queen-sized air mattresses. If you aren’t concerned about budget, we like the MSR Habitude 4. It packs down small, is easy to set up, and has a built-in vestibule for your dirty shoes, but it costs $500.

Even the most seasoned camper probably doesn’t love sleeping on the ground. A sleeping mat, like the Alps Mountaineering Lightweight Series Air Pad, will give your back a bit of relief. It’s not as good as an air mattress, but it takes up less room.

If You Need to Power Up

Nimble 10-Day Portable Charger

Road trips are a great opportunity to step away from endless scrolling, but there will be times when you need to plug in. To keep everything running, we like Nimble’s Portable Charger. It has one USB-C port and three USB-As. The name 10-Day refers to the ability to charge a phone fully for 10 days. There’s also a three-port 8-Day version for around $100.

If you’re going to be on the road for a while, Goal Zero’s power station packs a powerful punch—with a 187-WH capacity. It has enough power to charge your laptop, phone, or tablet, but it’s quite pricey at $300.

If You’re on the Road Long-Term (and Need Cell Signal)

weBoost Drive Reach Cell Phone Signal Booster

A cell signal booster isn’t necessary for most people, but if you’re planning to be on the road awhile in relatively untraversed parts of the country, you might want to invest in one. WIRED writer Scott Gilbertson spent three years living on the road in an RV and constantly struggled with reception until he started testing the weBoost. He recommends the Drive Reach. At $500, it’s not cheap, but if you need reliable cell service far from a home base, it’s a must-have.

Use Caution: Handling Winter Driving Conditions in Alberta

Originally by Mark Richardson via AMA Insider –

There are many ways that winter roads can be hazardous in Alberta. Here are some of them, and what you should do to make sure you’re safely handling winter driving conditions.

When road markings are obscured, slow down and leave lots of stopping distance. Always clear snow from your vehicle, including the roof. “You have to be able to see and be seen by others,” Wilson says. “Clean off your lights, mirrors and windows. If you leave a couple centimeters of snow on your hood, it’ll blow onto your windshield and snow on your roof or trunk will blow onto the car behind you.”

Ice is often plentiful at intersections, where vehicles brake and accelerate. It’s also likely to form on bridges because the cool air beneath the span freezes the water on its upper surface. Slow down and leave extra room for stopping.

Black ice is just like ice but not so apparent—it’s “black” because the ice is clear and you can see the asphalt below. Watch for a sheen on the road surface and treat it as you would ice.

Freezing rain can make conditions so dicey that it’s sometimes safest to pull off the highway and wait. If you must drive, be sure you have good winter tires and wiper blades, plus plenty of wiper fluid.

If you find yourself behind a snowplow, be grateful the road is being cleared and be patient. Don’t try to overtake it! “Every winter, there are crashes involving people trying to pass the plow,” Wilson says.

If you see emergency vehicles, including tow trucks, slow down to 60 kilometers per hour or the posted speed, whichever is lower. If possible, give them extra space by moving into the adjacent lane.

As with falling snow or freezing rain, if you run into fog, use your headlights’ low beams. “If you use high beams, it’s going to magnify the snow and fog and you’re not going to see very well,” Wilson says. “Or if you have fog lights, use them.”

Animals will often wander near winter roadways, drawn by the salt and other detritus thrown up by cars. Keep an eye out for signs warning of wildlife.

Eight tips for handling your vehicle in slippery winter conditions:

  1. Always hold the steering wheel with both hands. “Use 9-and-3 positioning, so you can easily straighten out without oversteering,” says Ron Wilson of AMA Driver Education.
  2. Don’t use cruise control on slippery roads. Your tires can lose traction trying to maintain a set speed.
  3. Apply your brakes well before entering a turn, so the vehicle slows down in a straight line. Leave plenty of extra room for braking.
  4. Don’t pump the brakes—especially if your car has an anti-lock braking system (ABS). “If you pump, you’re saying to the system, ‘I want to stop, I don’t want to stop, I want to stop, and so on,” Wilson notes. “With ABS, as soon as you apply the brakes full-on, it brings the vehicle to a stop.”
  5.  If your car was built before 2011, it may not have ABS. In which case, push your brake pedal until it’s at the threshold of locking. Then ease up from there.
  6. If you’re driving around a curve and your car starts to slide, keep a light grip on the wheel and steer gently in the direction you want the vehicle to go. Just don’t turn the wheel too much: When the tires catch their grip again, you don’t want to overcorrect.
  7. Don’t touch the brakes if your car is skidding out. If possible, shift into neutral and let the car slow on its own.
  8. Look ahead down the road where you want to go and that’s where you’ll steer to. When the tires have found their grip again, resume an appropriate speed.

Originally by Mark Richardson via AMA Insider –

Recommended Winter Driving Tips

Source: By Ron Wilson via, April 6, 2018

Heading out on the road after the first snowfall requires most of us to quickly think back to last winter and remember what we’re supposed to do (or not do) when driving on good winter roads and sometimes on less than ideal road conditions and more so when severe weather hits.

We’ve got you covered. Here are some tips so you know what to do:

  • Look well ahead and watch for black ice at temperatures between +4°C and -4°C, where the road surface ahead looks black and shiny. Most times, a driver can’t see black ice. As a general rule, if the pavement looks shiny and black instead of grey-white, slow down.
  • Watch for ice build-up at intersections, bridge decks and ramps and always slow down before the icy area.
  • Drive for the conditions. Winter road conditions can change very quickly, so drive proactively, reduce your speed, leave more space between you and the vehicle in front.
  • Use gentle braking, steering and acceleration when driving on snow covered roads.
  • Never use cruise control on wet or icy roads. Using cruise control when there is a build-up of water and ice can cause your vehicle to hydroplane (a loss of control due to a layer of water between your tires and the road). Remember, cruise control is designed for ideal road conditions.
  • Snowplows are equipped with flashing amber and red lights to make them more visible, so be aware flashing amber and red means snowplow ahead.
  • Give emergency road crews room to work. Drivers should allow extra room on the road for snowplow and tow truck operators, as well as for paramedics, firefighters and law enforcement. Also remember that drivers must reduce speed to 60 km/h or the posted speed, whichever is lower, when passing emergency vehicles or tow trucks that are stopped with their lights flashing.
  • Check your highway route before you leave the house. Visit our AMA Road Reports® interactive map from your computer, smartphone, or tablet before you head out on your travels, or follow us on Twitter to get updates on road & weather condition information.

Quick Question: In a 90km/h zone, are you speeding if you’re driving at 80km/h?
Answer: Yes – if you’re driving through blowing snow. Speed limits posted on highway signs, indicate the maximum speed you should travel at based on ideal road, weather or traffic conditions. The reality is speeding can also refer to travelling too fast for those conditions.

Source: By Ron Wilson via, April 6, 2018

How to Inspect a Tire

By Michelin | via

Once a month, or before embarking on a long road trip, check your tires for wear and damage problems. An easy way to check for wear is by using the quarter test. Just grab a Canadian quarter and follow these 3 easy steps:

  • Hold the quarter between your thumb and forefinger with the quarter head facing down.
  • Select a point on your tire where tread appears the lowest and insert the figurehead first into one of the grooves.
  • If the top of the figurehead is covered by tread, you’re driving with the legal and safe amount of tread. If your tread gets below that, your car’s ability to grip the road in adverse conditions is greatly reduced.

For more serious problems, try our easy-to-use online tire inspection tool below to help you identify issues and learn how to fix them. (Need new tires? Use our practical Michelin Tire Selector Tool)

To make sure your car’s tread is road-ready, do the Quarter Test below.


Summer Driving Safety Tips

By Ron Wilson on June 18, 2018 | via

Did you know that 86 percent of collisions in Alberta involve at least one driver committing an avoidable error? Before hitting the road in the summer months, protect yourself – and fellow drivers – by brushing up on your driver safety tips.


Tires are often the most neglected part of a vehicle. They should be checked visually prior to each trip, and at least once a month with a tire gauge. Not only will improperly inflated tires affect handling and performance, they can have a negative impact on safety devices such as antilock braking systems, traction control systems, and stability control systems.

Did you know, for instance, that many tire blowouts are caused by improperly inflated tires? The low air pressure causes tire heating and ultimately rubber failure. And if the pressure is really low, the rim will dig into the tire’s liner, compromising the structure.

Other good tire tips include:

  • Check the condition and placement of the spare tire.
  • Measure tire pressure when the tires are cold. “Cold” means that a vehicle has been stationary for at least three hours or has not been driven more than 2 km.

Checking tires will benefit drivers by improving handling and braking performance. Other benefits to proper tire inflation include increased driver safety, longer tire service life, better fuel economy, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.


Do you know what to do if you have a tire blowout? Having put hundreds of drivers through our Roadbot driving simulator’s “tire blowout” module, I can tell you that most people respond incorrectly to such a situation. This bears out in NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) data, which shows that tire-related crashes are linked to 700 deaths in North America every year.

No matter which tire blows out – the front or the rear – the steps for safely maintaining control of your vehicle are the same; the only difference is in how you feel it. In a front tire blowout, you will feel the force more in the vehicle’s steering in the direction of the tire that has blown; in a rear blowout, you will feel it more in the seat or body of the vehicle.

Remember, the goal in any blowout scenario is to keep the vehicle balanced and under control. Keep calm, as any overreaction – including oversteering, slamming on the brakes or abruptly removing your foot from the accelerator – can result in a loss of vehicle control.

Should you ever have a tire blowout, AMA recommends the following steps:

  • Hold the steering wheel with both hands (preferably in the 9 & 3 steering position).
  • Gradually release the accelerator.
  • Look well ahead, steering where you want to go to stabilize your vehicle and regain control. Correct the steering as necessary.
  • Once your vehicle has stabilized, apply gentle pressure to the brake pedal. Continue to slow down and pull off the road.
  • Park in a safe place and put your hazard lights on.

Vehicle Checks

Prior to hitting the road, always do a walk-around inspection to check for obstacles behind or near your vehicle. You should also check your lights, windows, and visual condition of the tires. The latter includes:

  • Check the inside of the wheels for brake fluid or mud build-up
  • Check the tire pressure.
    • Many drivers look at the sidewall of the tire to see the maximum amount of air that can go in the tire. But the maximum is not the optimum. The recommended pressures are printed on the vehicle’s tire information label/tire placard, which is usually attached to the edge of the driver’s door, the door post, the glove box or the fuel door.
    • If you can’t find the label, check your owner’s manual.
  • Check the tire tread.
    • The minimum allowable tread depth is 1.6mm (2/32”) on all four tires for cars, light trucks and multi-purpose passenger vehicles/SUVs.
    • If you don’t have a tread-depth gauge, a quick way to measure your tires is with a Canadian toonie. Just put the outside edge of the toonie in your tire’s tread and if your tire tread reaches only about halfway into the letters, your tires are not safe and need to be replaced.
  • Check the condition of the lug nuts and valve cap.

Emergency Vehicles

If you’re travelling west on a two-way urban roadway and an emergency vehicle is approaching from the east with lights and sirens activated, do you have to yield to it? If you’re not sure, you’re not alone; in fact, most drivers are uncertain of the rules. To clear things up, when an ambulance, firetruck or police emergency vehicle is approaching from any direction with lights and sirens activated, you must yield the right-of-way.

These are the proper steps:

  • Safely move your vehicle to allow the emergency vehicle passage.
  • Drive as close as safely possible to the right curb or edge of a two-way roadway.
  • If on a one-way street, drive right or left to the nearest curb.
  • If you’re in the middle of an intersection when an emergency vehicle approaches with lights and sirens activated, safely clear the intersection.
  • Come to a complete stop until the emergency vehicle has passed. Check that no other emergency vehicles are approaching.

To be more aware of emergency vehicles, look at least 15 to 20 seconds ahead and check the mirrors every 5 to 8 seconds. If you see that you’re driving in the lane next to an emergency vehicle (or tow truck) that is stopped at the side of the road with their lights flashing, slow down to 60 km/h (or less, if the speed limit is lower) and drive with increased caution. Even better, to give them room to work safely, move over one lane if possible. If there’s a full lane buffer between you and the emergency vehicle or tow truck, you may continue at the posted speed limit. Lastly, if following behind an emergency vehicle with sirens or lights operating, maintain a safe following distance of at least 150 metres.


Spring Tire-Care Tips to Help You Stay Safe on the Road

Source: By Jeff S. Bartlett via, March 20, 2019

Winter is tough on tires: Road conditions can be brutal, and temperature swings can often mean your tires have become badly deflated. As spring emerges, potholes often blossom and create their own risks to your tires. That makes this a great time to spend a few minutes checking your tires and making pressure corrections as needed.

“Being proactive with tire maintenance can improve safety and save money in the long run,” says Gene Petersen, Consumer Reports’ tire program manager. “Just a little time spent inspecting can make a big difference.”

If You Have All-Season Tires

Check the air pressure level on your tires and adjust it as needed to the amount specified on the tire information placard found on the driver’s doorjamb. Improper inflation pressure can affect tire longevity and fuel efficiency.

Don’t forget to check the pressure on your car’s spare tire, too.

Inspect your tires for signs of damage, such as cuts, cracks, and sidewall blisters that could result from striking potholes. Some tire manufacturers and retailers provide road-hazard warranties that can save you money if you have to replace a tire.

If there’s irregular treadwear, that can indicate a problem with how well a tire is balanced on its wheel. Coming out of winter, that treadwear can signal that the tires are out of alignment or that the car’s suspension has been damaged. You might experience symptoms of this while you’re driving, such as a shimmy in the steering wheel or the car pulling to either side. Have such issues evaluated by your mechanic, Petersen says.

This is also a good time to check on how worn your tires have become.

Check the tread depth by placing a quarter upside down in a tire groove. The distance from the coin’s rim to George Washington’s hairline is about 4⁄32 of an inch. If you see all of Washington’s head in any one groove where a treadwear indicator appears, you might want to start shopping for new tires while you have some seasonal grip left. They should definitely be replaced by the time they reach 2⁄32 of an inch. Worn tires tend to stop longer on wet pavement and hydroplane on water more frequently—a concern when spring showers may be in the forecast. (Learn more about how tire wear affects performance.)

It may also be time to rotate your tires. This typically needs to happen every 5,000 to 8,000 miles. Consult your owner’s manual for guidance on the rotation pattern (front-to-rear, side-to-side) and frequency. Some retailers may provide free rotations to customers. This service not only saves money but also is good encouragement to remain on schedule. Regular rotations keep the tires wearing evenly and can help maximize their longevity.

See Consumer Reports’ complete all-season tire ratings.

If You Have Winter/Snow Tires

As the risk of snow and ice melts away, it’s time to replace your winter/snow tires with all-season tires. Don’t delay: The tread on winter/snow tires wears quickly, and you’ll want to preserve them for future use. On top of that, all-season tires provide better grip on dry and wet roads.

Inspect the tires for potential damage: Check the bead area—the inner lip of the tire that seals against the wheel—if the tires have already been dismounted from the wheel. Sometimes the bead can be damaged in the removal process, creating rips or tears in the rubber.

Like with the all-season tires, check the tread depth with a quarter, placing George Washington’s head down into each major groove. If the top of Washington’s head is visible, there is only about 4⁄32 of an inch or less of tread and the tire might not have enough useful life for another season.

Finally, clean the tires with soap and water to remove salt and/or road de-icer. Store in a cool, dry place—out of the sun. 

See Consumer Reports’ complete winter/snow tire ratings.

Source: By Jeff S. Bartlett via, March 20, 2019