Car safety tips for the deep freeze

If you’re lucky, you spent most of the weekend bundled up inside far away from the negative temperatures outside. However, now that the workweek has started, there’s no escaping it now. Calgary has been in the minus -20- and -30-degree range since Friday and will continue in these lower temperatures until this coming weekend. During this cold snap, we want to help you travel as safely as possible while you run to work, do errands or pick up food.

Last week, northern Alberta was under extreme cold warnings due to an arctic system that was moving south. This week, it’s safe to say that it has arrived in central and southern Alberta, seeing temperatures of -30 and below. When you add windchill to these temperatures, it’s not unusual for Alberta to see -40- to -45-degree temperatures. Last year, Alberta had the longest cold snap it’s seen since 1998, with the dates of February 2-10 all remaining below -11 degrees. During this period, Albertans contacted AMA roadside assistance a record number of times; in two days, citizens made 31,000 roadside assistance requests when the same stretch of days in 2018 only required 6,300.


To reduce the risk of injury and emergency during these cold spells, here are some tips on how you can travel safely this winter and avoid needing roadside assistance:


  • Prior to Driving:
  • Plug your vehicle in at least four hours prior to leaving if it’s below -15 degrees.
  • If you have winter tires, ensure they are put on properly and the pressure is correct. If you don’t have winter tires, strongly consider buying a set to ease your winter driving experience.
  • Prepare an emergency kit and leave it in the trunk of your car. This can include a blanket or sleeping bag, first aid kit, matches, flashlight, warm clothes, a shovel, etc.
  • Your Vehicle:
  • Make sure your vehicle is completely cleared off before driving. This includes brushing off all snow, scraping all windows, cleaning your headlights and taillights and defrosting the windows.
  • Allow your car to warm up for several minutes after you turn it on.
  • Ensure your gas tank is always half full or more during all winter months.
  • While Driving:
  • Drive based on the conditions. Ex. If there is blowing snow and ice, perhaps you go 40 kilometres per hour instead of the posted 80 kilometres per hour.
  • Always keep your eyes on the horizon, scanning the road for patches of ice or drifting snow.
  • Notice any changes in your car, whether one of your tires is too flat from the cold, or the engine is louder than normal.


Overall, you just need to be smart when driving in the winter. We recommend leaving the house as little as possible during these cold spells, but we know that’s not always possible. If you do need to leave the house, follow these simple steps to have a safe ride to and from your destination.