Winter Road conditions demystified

November 06 2015, Richard DesRochers

Winter Road conditions demystified
If we ask 100 people for the definition of winter driving, we'll probably receive 100 different explanations.

If we ask 100 people for the definition of winter driving, we'll probably receive 100 different explanations. Listed below are the key elements to better understanding winter driving, but most important are how to adapt one’s behaviour and reduce speed.

Here is a summary of important winter conditions, warnings and road conditions:


Winter storms represent the most dangerous combination of falling snow, blowing snow, winds of at least 40 kilometres per hour, reduced visibility, and temperatures as low as -10 ° C.

  • Weather WarningBlizzard, blizzard warning, winds
  • Road conditions: snowy pavement, partly bare pavement, snow bumps, road closures

Heavy Snow

Snowfall of at least 10 centimetres in 12 hours or 15 centimetres or more in 24 hours.

  • Meteorological Warning: snowstorm, large accumulation of snow, blowing snow warning 
  • Road conditions: snowy pavement, road partially open, accumulated snow, road closures 

Rain or freezing drizzle

They can give rise to an ice storm ice covering the roads, trees and overhead wires.

  • Meteorological Warning: freezing rain, rain, drizzle, freezing fog, freezing rain warning
  • Road conditions: icy roads, black ice, ice on the road, salt used extensively, use of lots of windshield washer

Waves of cold

This is a rapid drop in temperature during a very short period of time, causing very icy roads.

  • Meteorological Warning: intense cold wave, biting wind chill
  • Road conditions: icy roads, black ice, inefficient road salt, heaps of ice or snow, ice plates

Wet snow or slush

This is when slush accumulates near roads. Trucks or buses can face very perilous driving.

  • Meteorological Warning: Slush, road splashes
  • Road conditions: wet, slush accumulation, car rolling, making overtaking difficult

As you can see, in Quebec, we have no choice but to adapt our behavior to unpredictable weather, especially in winter. Our best advice: install mandatory winter tires in early October or November before the first snow, and reduce speed especially in the presence of black ice ...

To better prepare for winter driving, or for more information, you can download the transport Canada brochure on the CAA website:

Book an appointment for tires installation!