Highways, Ferries, and Winter Roads

Winter Driving

Drivers in the Northwest Territories must keep a close eye on weather conditions to be prepared for unexpected challenges. 

Before departing

  • Install good winter tires. Before winter begins, switch to snow tires, which provide better traction and handling through snow, slush and on ice.
  • Make sure that every passenger in the vehicle has warm winter clothes available.
  • Prepare a winter travel kit with warm clothing, candles and or flashlight, matches, sleeping bags or blankets, first aid kit, pocket knife, canned nuts, energy snack bars, a brightly coloured cloth to use as a flag, small shovel, sand and a tow strap.
  • Tell someone your travel plans.
  • Ensure your vehicle has had a maintenance check-up.
  • Check road conditions and weather forecasts before you depart
  • Be prepared for severe weather conditions.
  • Tell someone your travel plans – when you’re leaving, what route you’ll be taking and when you plan on arriving – before you leave.
  • Fill your vehicle's gas tank.
  • Make sure you have sufficient windshield washer fluid in the reservoir and that it is rated in the -40°C temperature range. Keep an extra jug in the vehicle.

After departing

  • Don’t let your fuel level drop below half a tank.
  • Check tire air pressure frequently, as it decreases in colder weather.
  • See and be seen in low light conditions, and when blowing snow and white-outs impair your visibility.
  • Keep your windows clear.
  • Leave plenty of space between you and the vehicle ahead – at least four seconds in poor conditions.
  • Look far ahead as you drive, so you can recognize hazards and have plenty of time to respond.
  • Adjust your driving and speed to the road and weather conditions. Keep your speed steady.
  • Bridges and overpasses freeze first, so slow down, and avoid sudden changes in speed or direction when approaching them.
  • Watch out for black ice (areas of the road that appear black and shiny)
  • Share the road cautiously with large trucks and buses, which can blow snow onto your windshield.
  • To make Antilock Brakes work correctly, apply constant, firm pressure to the pedal. During an emergency stop, push the brake pedal all the way to the floor, if necessary, even in wet or icy conditions.
  • Adjust your driving to the road and weather conditions. Slow down and avoid sudden turns of the steering wheel, and sudden braking and accelerating which could cause a skid. In a skid, decelerate by taking your foot off the brake, step on the clutch or shift to neutral, then look where you want your vehicle to go and steer in that direction.

If you're stuck or stranded

  • Don’t panic. Stay with your vehicle for safety and warmth. Wait for help to arrive.
  • Be careful if you have to get out of your vehicle when on the shoulder of a busy road. If possible, use the door away from traffic.
  • Draw attention to your vehicle. Use emergency flashers, flares or a Call Police sign. Run your motor sparingly. For fresh air, slightly open a window away from the wind. You may have to exit your vehicle occasionally to make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of drifting snow before running the engine.
  • If you attempt to free your vehicle from the snow, be careful. Dress warmly, shovel slowly and do not overexert yourself. Body heat is retained when clothing is kept dry. Wet clothing due to the weather or perspiration can lead to a dangerous loss of body heat.
  • In blizzard conditions, especially overnight, make sure one person stays awake, because help could take some time to arrive. Maintain circulation by moving your feet, hands, and arms.