The days are short, the nights are long, and the snowflakes are falling. There’s no easy way to break it to you. The harsh reality is that winter is here. But don’t despair! If you’re a veteran road warrior such as myself, you adapt to the season’s shift in weather and get ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at you.

Icy conditions, bleak darkness by 4 p.m. and curbs encased in slush, the season comes with its inherent challenges. And while hibernation works for bears, you have places to be! With a little planning and precaution, you can be confident behind the wheel, navigating through some of winter’s worst weather.

With three hockey tournaments on deck this season, I know the road conditions will be less than ideal. There’s no way around it – and there’s no missing the kid’s ice time either. As the trainer of my daughter’s team, safety is always my utmost priority, and while spills on the ice are to be expected, I prefer my ice at the rink and not on the road, thank you very much. With a little planning and the right tool kit, winter driving needn’t keep you from your favourite activities.

As with driving in any season, a safe and well-serviced vehicle is a great first start. Make sure your ride has all its fluids (brake fluid, motor oil, etc.) topped up, and always have an extra jug of washer fluid in your trunk. Check wiper blades and replace if there are any streaks or the blades don’t mold well to the windshield.

It’s also a wise bet to check your battery and make sure you have jumper cables handy in case your battery dies. Tires should be switched from all-seasons to winter tires, and while you’re at it, make sure the tire pressure is correct according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. There’s a reason why winter tires are mandatory in some provinces: they work! Even with temperatures at 7°C, winter tires beat out all-seasons. It’s the first thing I look after when the ground begins to freeze.

Along with keeping your gas tank full, run your car through the car wash and make sure your windows, mirrors and lights are free from salt and sand debris. Take an extra minute while you fill up at the gas station for a 360° walk around your car to check that you can see and be seen. Inspect your tires too, as pressure can decrease in the cold. Warming your car up for even just a minute before driving off can help your engine work optimally for your drive, but any longer and you’re just burning through your tank.

But even the most prepared driver can hit a few bumps in the road, after all, you still have to share the road with other people. Getting stuck on the highway, or off in a ditch can become a serious situation if you’re not prepared. A few thoughtfully stocked items can literally make the difference between life and death. Make sure you’ve stocked your vehicle with the following:

1-Snow brush and scraper
2-Jumper cables, spare tire and equipment and a tow rope
3-Water & non-perishable food
4-First aid kit in case of injury
5-Spare phone charger that doesn’t require being plugged in
6-Flashlight and spare batteries
7-Non-clumping kitty litter or traction mats
8-Candle + waterproof matches
9-Roadside flares, reflective road triangle
10-Blanket and warm layers

Now that your ride is ready, and you’ve taken all the precautions to be the best driver you can be, maybe it’s time to reward yourself for all that effort.

Onlia is a new insurance company, dedicated to inspiring you to be the safest driver on the road, using their GPS enabled app to track the science behind each unique driver’s behaviours. After each trip, the data is presented through the app, with suggestions for how to be safer next time, or kudos for all those full three-second stops. With phones giving drivers ample distractions behind the wheel, the app also offers advice on when those interactions with your phone happened, helping to curb that habit for next time.

Onlia brings navigation on board as well, making it a handy go-to app for getting behind the wheel. The app also features badges and scoring for a gamified aesthetic, allowing you to go head-to-head with your partner or pal to see who’s really the safest driver. Tracking your turns, speeds and reaction time for braking is just the beginning. Onlia is rewarding its members with perks and small tokens of amazingness, like gift cards for coffee and restaurants. Bragging rights could turn into date nights pretty effortlessly.

Thank you to Onlia for sponsoring this post.