Lose the Cruise Control in Winter

do not use cruise control in winter

When it comes to winter driving, cruise control can make you lose control, wherever you are in BC.

Snow, ice, slush, deep pools of water and even oil on water are slippery. These winter conditions plus snowfall, fog, rain and longer hours of darkness demand your full attention and quick reactions.

The problem with using cruise control in those circumstances, comes when the car in front of you swerves, wildlife steps onto the road, you skid or something else unexpected happens. You might not have the time to cancel cruise control and respond quickly enough. Braking to release the control – especially on a slick spot – can make a bad situation worse.

Another trouble with using cruise control in winter, is that it can work against you.

Here’s how: you set the cruise control at the desired speed and the vehicle is programmed to maintain that speed. When your vehicle slows below the chosen speed, the control feeds more gas to your engine so you accelerate. Speeding up can happen at the wrong time like:

  • When your front wheels are turning into an icy corner
  • When going uphill and your tires hit a slick patch
  • While driving on slippery bridge decks, where the temperature can be colder than the pavement.

In addition, while travelling downhill you may exceed the control’s set speed. And winter is not the time for speeding up! The latest cruise controls in newer vehicles apply brakes, if you exceed speeds downhill (due to gravity). And, if your car brakes on a slippery section at that time, you could be in big trouble.

“Drive for the conditions” are the buzzwords of the season, and this means reducing your speed below the posted limit, should your route serve up slippery surfaces, poor visibility, or other challenges. Even if you start out on a sunny day someplace where the pavement is bare, in winter the story can soon change. And you don’t know exactly what’s ahead (or beneath) you until you get there. A vivid example is Strathcona Parkway, where within 18 kilometres you can move from sunshine into a blizzard.

You, your passengers and others on the road want a safe drive, not slip, slide, glide or hydroplane. So, when you #ShiftintoWinter leave the cruise control alone.

This vehicle feature can be a treat when driving bare, open, mostly flat roads, in good light, from April to September. But never use cruise control in winter, where the place it takes you, could be out of control.

winter driving


Page 1 of 20 comments on “Lose the Cruise Control in Winter”

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  1. Well I did finally receive an acknowledgement for my latest e-mail. However I despair of getting a reply from the Minister or his representative.

    I guess I am going to have to look up his schedule of public meetings and doorstep him.

    • Hi Nicholas
      Glad to hear you received confirmation of your latest email. In regards to the two concerns you raised in your earlier comments,Trans Canada Highway safety and winter maintenance, we can share a few things.

      The ministry is investing in longer-term improvements for the TCH that will really increase safety. As you mentioned, we’re adding four-lane sections and replacing aging infrastructure along the Trans-Canada Highway between Kamloops and the Alberta border, including at the Clanwilliam and Donald Bridges near Revelstoke. Replacement of the Malakwa Bridge is also currently underway, replacing the previous Malakwa Bridge with a four-lane bridge and approaches that provide set passing and improved safety. And, we’ve dedicated $650M to four-laning the Trans-Canada Highway over the next 10 years.

      Also, we’ll be piloting a variable speed limit system on the Trans-Canada Highway between Malakwa’s Perry River Bridge, and the Highway 23 junction in Revelstoke. It’s in development right now but we’re hoping to have it in place before next winter.

      As to winter maintenance, our southern interior received an unusually heavy amount of snowfall this winter and the closures and conditions between Sicamous and Golden on the Trans-Canada Highway this winter have been a public concern. Safety is our No.1 priority, and we’re taking steps to make this area safer for drivers, including increasing the presence of our Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement team to provide speed, driver distraction/behaviour and chain-up enforcement for the commercial vehicles using the highway.

      We’ll continue to work with and monitor the performance of our maintenance contractors to ensure their meeting our strict standards, and quickly address any issues that arise.

      Thanks again for sharing your concerns.

  2. But then this is nothing you don’t know. People have been complaining about this lousy highway for years. Since Christmas I have sent 6 e-mails to the Minister and have had no response.

      • I’m still waiting for a response to my e-mails. Indeed, I have now stopped even getting the automated reply saying that my e-mail has been received. Perhaps I have been banned/put on the spam list for asking too many awkward questions?

  3. I guess that in Victoria you aren’t painfully aware of the 5 deaths in a week around Revelstoke and the total chaos caused by the many closures. You might like to look at http://www.revelstoketimesreview.com/news/289311541.html. However, since this is all happening east of the Island, the Lower Mainland, Kamloops-South Thompson and Westside-Kelowna we aren’t a priority, despite the Trans-Canada being the main transport link to the rest of Canada.

    • Hi Nicholas, thanks for your feedback and comments.
      I should clarify that the ministry isn’t just in Victoria, we’re all over the province. Specifically, we have district offices in Cranbrook and Revelstoke. I’m sorry for your frustration but safety in all 11 districts is important and a priority for us. Thank you for sharing your concerns and suggestions. I’ll share them with the regional director and the local district manager (contact info here: http://www.th.gov.bc.ca/contacts-regions.htm#SouthernInterior). As to your emails to the Minister, I’ll see if there’s anything I can find out.

  4. The Ministry is the one operating on cruise control. Deafening silence in response to the rising concern about the carnage and chaos on the Trans-Canada ‘Highway’.

    • Hi Nicholas,
      Is there somewhere specifically you are concerned about? Safety is our number one priority and any issues or concerns you have, we’d like to hear.

      • And here is a suggestion of something you could do. Crack down on the commercial transport industry that employs far too many inexperienced drivers, who haven’t a clue how to drive safely in the mountains in winter conditions, and pressures them to keep to schedule come what may. Most of the deaths here were in accidents involving heavy transport trucks.

        Next you could look into whether the recent increase in speed limits has contributed to the accidents.

        Then I guess we will just have to wait for the next new set of Kamloops to Alberta 4 laning signs to appear just before the provincial election (as they did before the last two) while we get a couple of km of worn out, narrow, winding, 1960’s highway upgraded every few years.

      • And since it is going to take at least another couple of decades to upgrade the highway and eliminate the worst accident black spots you need to improve winter maintenance because of the high volume of heavy transport traffic. The federally maintained section of the highway in Glacier National Park is noticeably better maintained than the provincial section.