How to Drive Safely on Icy Roads

Driving on icy roads in winter is one of the toughest challenges drivers face. While it's best to stay home when the roads are slippery, sometimes you can't avoid ice on a drive. What should you do if you encounter icy roads? Here are some tips on how to navigate the hazards of cold, wintry conditions.  

How Ice Makes Driving Difficult

Icy conditions can appear with snow, sleet, and freezing rain. As you know, ice forms at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but it can be present even when the weather is warmer. Ice may be present even if you can't see it on asphalt roads, and that is why it's called "black ice."

It may surprise you that ice is most hazardous when it begins to melt. That is because melting ice creates slush, and that lubricates the ice. Therefore, a thin layer of water over ice makes traction difficult. Without a good grip on the road, your tires might spin or skid along the ice.

Tips on Driving in Icy Conditions

  • Slow down. The best thing you can do while driving on ice is to slow down. It's easier to slow down and avoid a skid than to guide yourself out of one. Traffic experts offer the rule of thumb that you should slow down by 1/3 of the speed limit in hazardous weather. 

  • Give other cars their space. What's difficult about ice is that it takes far longer for brakes to work on ice. That means you can more easily rear-end someone at a traffic stop. Or your car could slide out of its lane. Therefore, you should increasethe recommended following distance (three to four seconds) to eight to 10 seconds. 

  • Get winter tires. Swapping out your all-season tires for winter or snow tires gives you an edge on ice and snow. These tires vary in what traction they offer, but they have been found to be better than regular tires in navigating ice and snow. There are many situations where winter (snow) tires will help, such as driving up an icy hill. Research which tires are best for your vehicle and the weather in your area.

How to Handle Stops and Skids

You can do everything right and still be in a situation where you slide and skid. When this happens, avoid the urge to hit the brakes. If you do that, the brakes could lock, and then it's even harder to slow or stop the vehicle. Instead, ease your foot off the accelerator when you feel the car is starting to slip. By easing up on the gas pedal, your car will slow down on its own.

Learn ahead of time whether you have anti-lock brakes. Knowing this information will help you respond in icy conditions. If you have anti-lock brakes, then put steady pressure on the brakes to slow and stop. If you have regular brakes, then the best thing to do is pump the brakes. That means you apply the brake and quickly ease off and then repeat the brake and easing motions.  

Driver's Education Can Teach You How to Handle Icy Weather

Icy conditions are hard for even the most seasoned drivers. It can be scary to handle slippery roads as a new driver, so driver's education can build your confidence. Learn to handle icy roads or other hazardous conditions or prepare for your driver's test.

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