top of page
  • Bedford Driver

Driving in Adverse Conditions

Updated: Jan 22

Adverse Conditions

The east coast of Canada has been experiencing a dramatic increase in severe weather events since 2021. Numerous factors are contributing to this shift in our climate but I’d like to point out another aspect to consider here; Driving in these conditions.

Powerful Nor'easter Winter Storm Slams Nova Scotia

It’s better to stay at home when the weather is bad, but there are times like family emergencies or other circumstances beyond your control, where you will have no choice but to drive. It would be better to have some experience with driving in these conditions, as the stress of an emergency or other pressing circumstances, may be too much to handle on its own without the added stress of driving in bad weather. Being experienced at driving in these conditions reduces the anxiety they can produce, and will always help you make better decisions.

Severe Storm Aftermath At Queensland Beach

Lights out at intersections

When traffic lights stop working at intersections they become an all-way stop. Each motorist takes a turn stopping at the stop line and it’s first come first serve. This will be an extremely dangerous situation. If this happens at night the situation will be even more dangerous. Traffic lights in Nova Scotia do not have backup lighting or any kind of reflective markings that could help make them visible to drivers as they approach the intersection. So unless you are familiar with an area and know where the traffic lights are, you will be less likely to see the intersection in time to stop.

Lights-out at Intersections; these situations call for extreme caution

Lights Out At Intersections; Stay frosty


Tires are the most important part of your vehicle

Some things to consider before hitting the road in Nova Scotia – What condition are your tires in? All tires have wear indicators built into the tread. If the tire tread is flush or near the wear indicator, then you will want to have a trusted mechanic look at it to be sure of its condition. Generally 5/32’s is the minimum tread depth that is passable for MVI’s.

Like hockey skates or football cleats, the tires on your vehicle are what give you traction on the road. Tires are the single most important component of your vehicle.

CNET On Cars – Car Tech 101​: How tires work

Michelin Cross Climate tires are my favorite because they are good for all conditions so you never have to change them when the seasons change.

Pushing My Michelin Cross Climates To The Max In Heavy Rain - Just drivin'

Top 3 overlooked deadly factors that may get you killed


Tips for driving in the rain

  • Reduce your speed and increase your following distance (Literally the secret to almost everything in driving).

  • Drive in the tracks of other vehicles, because they have already cleared some water out of the lane with their tires.

  • Accelerate and brake more gradually

  • Steer with smooth gentle motions

  • Don’t use cruise control – If you were to hydroplane, the cruise control system would stay on causing the vehicle to keep accelerating. That is the last thing you want if you are hydroplaning. Always let up off the accelerator pedal.

How To Drive In Heavy Rain 🚿🌩️🌧


Hydroplaning happens when the tires on your vehicle lose their grip and instead travel on water sitting on top of the road. Hydroplaning eliminates a driver’s ability to steer and brake. Hydroplaning is most likely to happen when there is standing water on the road. If you’re driving too fast, your car can’t move the water out of the way fast enough.

Tips to avoid hydroplaning

A lesson in heavy rain

GoPro captures Audi A4 Allroad Quattro losing control at 140 km/h...

Hydroplaning in Iceland

Aston Martin Valkrie Wet Test

How To Drive In Heavy Rain And Not Hydroplane

Some things to consider before hitting the road in Nova Scotia; Are you familiar with your vehicle’s controls, such as the windshield wipers and heater controls? These two features will save your life especially at highway speeds. Anyone driving in adverse conditions needs to know where these controls are without having to look at them.

The ability to see clearly through your vehicle’s windshield is something many of us take for granted. But it only takes a couple of seconds for a big splash of water or slush to cover the windshield causing you to be unable to see or navigate while driving. This is common when a tractor trailer passes by you in the left lane. When this happens turn your wipers on at their highest speed and let up off the accelerator pedal to let the truck go by faster. Many beginner drivers are nervous about operating the windshield wipers but it’s something that everyone must learn to do. Memorizing your heater controls is another essential skill for driving in bad conditions.

In this video a student learns how much it sucks to not be able to see through the windshield while driving with some speed. After this they quickly figured out how to operate the wipers.

I made this video to show what it looks like when you can't see through the windshield. It's the worst feeling ever and it will feel like it took 20 seconds to clear the snow away when it was only a split second.

Get comfortable in uncomfortable situations; Learn to drive in all types of conditions

Is it dangerous to drive in bad weather? Of course it is but that’s why we make adjustments to the various factors and hazards in the driving environment to mitigate those dangers. When you are familiar with these conditions you become more comfortable in them and when you are comfortable you will always make better decisions.

A Driving Lesson In The Rain


When an accident happens, the police investigate the various factors that caused it like speed weather conditions and driver attention. Always make minor adjustments to these factors by reducing your speed. These adjustments will add up to a whole lot safer of a drive.

Driving Is Like The Movie Final Destination; Expect Anything


  • Ensure that you have adequate heat on the windshield to prevent fogging.

  • Eliminate as many distractions as possible so you can focus on driving.

  • Don’t use your high beam headlights as they are useless in wet conditions.

  • Think ahead and see potential hazards well in advance so you can react in time.

  • The most important tip is to slow down and stay calm.

  • Always operate both gas and brake pedals gradually and gently.

Driving in rain at night in downtown Halifax - 4K


Fog - Driving in the fog can be hazardous. If you are caught driving in fog, reduce your speed and turn on the low beams. Increase your following distance, be patient and avoid trying to pass any vehicles. If it gets to hard to see, pull over to a gas station or safe area and wait it out for a bit. Instead of taking the main highway you might prefer to take the old trunk route instead as trunk routes run along the main highway. It doesn’t matter how good of a driver you are, if you can’t see anything you can’t react to anything.

Red Rear Fog Lights

Driving in fog can be especially challenging because visibility is limited. If you can't see where you're going it doesn't matter how good of a driver you are. Rain and moisture tend to absorb any extra light produced by fog lights. A red rear fog light reveals the position of your vehicle to drivers behind you when driving in conditions that limit visibility.

Your tail lights are dim so they are not as likely to be seen in foggy weather. Factory front fog lights don’t do much other than light the area in front of your vehicle which is already lit by your headlights. A red rear fog light is mounted on the rear of a vehicle to help it be more visible to other drivers when they are behind you.

Regulations in most of the world permit vehicles to be equipped with one or two rear fog lights. If only one rear fog is equipped, it must be on the driver’s side of the vehicle. Having two is legal but makes it much more difficult for drivers following you to see your brake lights.

You should always use your low beam headlights in the fog and turn on your red rear fog light if your vehicle is equipped with one. If the vehicle doesn't have a red rear fog light flashing your brake lights periodically by applying the brakes will assist motorists behind you in seeing you in heavier fog. The reason you don't use your high beam headlights in the fog is because the moisture from the fog will reflect the light back at you. When conditions are clear, your high beam headlights will be more useful compared to conditions of poor visibility.

Proper Usage of Rear Fog Lamps

Driving In Fog

Below is an example of one type of collision that can happen in heavy fog conditions. In this case the vehicle that was rear ended was the last vehicle in a stopped line of traffic. The truck approached from behind and rear ended the truck which then sandwiched it into the vehicle in front of it. Always leave extra room between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you to avoid getting sandwiched which would be a double impact.

Taillights Make It Easier For Other Drivers To See You


Another critical aspect to consider is poise and confidence. These are the two single most important things to have when you find yourself in a challenging driving situation. The tires can be new and the vehicle can have 4-wheel drive, but if the driver isn’t smooth and confident, it will have little effect on the outcome of a dangerous driving situation. There’s no better time to get a little practice driving in bad weather conditions. Find a quiet side street or industrial park and just go slow and get a feel for the road and see how your vehicle handles in various types of conditions. Never let yourself get too much speed in the snow because when you brake you will have to brake harder which could cause your tires to break traction. In the video below we are going down a hill and into a turn with too much speed. The student follows instructions and does not hit the brake pedal. This allows the tires to spin freely and regain traction. If we had hit the brakes here we would have ended up in the ditch instead of on the edge of it.

A Driving Lesson In The Snow

Too much speed for the conditions

De-icing windows

Let the vehicle warm up and blast warm air on the windows before trying to open them. If you try to open them while they are frozen you will break the window regulator.

Here are some tips on how to clean the snow off of your car after a winter storm. ❄️

Practicing in the snow and helping out my fellow motorists

All Wheel Drive Mini Coopers Do Not Slip In The Snow (this one has all season tires on it)

It’s illegal to deposit snow on the roadway.

The most common place to see flying ice is at highway merges and overpasses after a vehicle covered in ice accelerates up to highway speed for the first time after the storm. Also, anywhere there is a bump like a pothole or overpass is where snow and ice will fall from vehicles and collect on the road.

Flying ice on Highway 103 in Nova Scotia

Ice sheet flew off tractor trailer

How to Handle Skids

If you lose control and start sliding avoid the urge to hit the brakes. Always ease your foot off the accelerator pedal when you feel the car is starting to slip. Look where you want to go and not where the car is heading at that moment. You almost always end up where you are looking.

In video below we are driving down the steepest hill in Halifax in a snow storm. It sounds crazy but with the right adjustments we make it more manageable. First we shift the transmission to its lowest gear which is usually indicated by a number 1 or in some cars an L. Then we apply the brakes very lightly and maintain a steady pressure on the brake pedal down the hill. If we hit the brakes to hard here we will slide down the hill for sure.

Here we go into a downhill turn in the snow with too much speed but the student listened to their instructor and did not hit the brakes. This allowed the wheels to spin freely which helped us regain traction instead of going into the ditch. If we had hit the brakes here we would have been calling a tow truck to come get us out of the ditch.

When your tires start to slip you will see this light flickering in the dash. It’s your Traction Control light and it’s telling you that your tires are slipping. This is also when the computer is compensating by limiting power to certain wheels.

Spinout on highway 118 in Halifax Nova Scotia

Tesla drifting on icetrack

Driving Windmill Road in a blizzard

In the video below we have taken this mitigated risk of driving down the steepest hill in Halifax – in snow by shifting to the lowest gear (L OR 1). By taking this mitigated the student driver is that much more experienced at driving in these challenging conditions. Now they have somewhat of a comfort level with these conditions. So when they are out driving by themselves and come across a similar situation they will be more comfortable which means they will be confident and when you are confident you will usually make a better decision when deciding how to react to a hazard.

A driving lesson on the steepest hill in Halifax

How to correct a slide on an icy road – Winter driving education

In this lesson the student catches the shoulder at highway in the snow and recovers like a boss. They gradually steer the car back onto the road while holding the steering wheel straight and NOT hitting the brake pedal. We slip we slide we recover then we keep driving. This was a fun lesson.

How To Drive In The Snow Like A Boss

Driving in a Blizzard Halifax Nova Scotia

Tips for driving in snow

Black Ice

How To Drive On Black Ice

Driving on black ice is like playing Russian Roulette. The surface of the road will usually look clear, almost as if it’s just rain but don’t get comfortable. That is the trick to driving on black ice because the second you become comfortable get comfortable, that is when black ice will show itself. You might drive 20 kilometers and not sense any slippage on the road surface but all it takes is one small patch of black ice to send you sliding into a spin.

Black Ice; You'll never see it coming

A Driving Lesson On Ice

Night Ryder


Cool Student Driver stickers now available

One of my students recently experienced a road rage incident while practicing. These stickers keep other drivers behind you chill while you're trying to learn. You would be amazed at how many drivers respond positively to these stickers and sometimes will follow even further back.

bottom of page