Winter driving brings plenty of challenges, but perhaps the most difficult to deal with is driving on ice. If freezing rain is in the forecast, your best bet is to stay home and wait for the roads to clear. However, if you have to head out, follow these tips to safely drive in icy conditions.
- Understanding Black Ice
Contrary to its name, black ice isn’t actually black. It forms when a thin layer of ice contains very few air bubbles, making it completely transparent. Because the ice is transparent, it takes on whatever color is under it. In the case of a road, it looks black like the asphalt and is nearly impossible to see.
Because black ice is practically invisible, it’s very dangerous on the road. Black ice tends to form in the evening and the morning. If you see a patch of roadway ahead of you that looks shiny while the rest of the road looks dull, it could be black ice.
- Slow Down
If temperatures are around freezing, you know there’s a chance for ice. Therefore, you should always reduce your speed. If you’re sliding or fishtailing, you’re driving too fast for the conditions. If you find yourself driving on black ice, take your foot off the accelerator and don’t hit the brakes or make any sudden movements. The idea is to keep the steering wheel straight and let the car travel over the ice. Black ice is usually patchy, so you’ll likely hit clear pavement in just a few feet.
- Steer Into the Slide
If you’re on ice and feel the back end of your car starting to slide, use the steering wheel to gently turn the same direction of the slide. It also helps to focus your eyes on where you want the vehicle to go and point the steering wheel in that direction. If you try to steer against the slide, you could end up overcorrecting and spin out.
- Use Caution Approaching Bridges and Overpasses
You likely see the signs warning you about ice forming on the bridge, and if you’re driving when it’s at or below freezing, you need to take those warnings seriously. Bridges and overpasses have air on all sides and no way to trap heat, which makes them freeze more quickly than the road. If you’re approaching a bridge or overpass and it looks wet, that might actually be ice on the surface.
- Give Yourself More Following Time
When roads are dry, driving experts recommend leaving three to four seconds between you and the vehicle in front of you. However, when you’re driving in snowy and icy conditions, you should increase your following distance to eight to 10 seconds. This increase will give you the longer distance you need to react or come to a stop safely.
If you need to head out on the road during icy conditions, follow these tips to know how to spot warning signs of ice and how to drive safely over it.
Pick the right vehicle
You might think that All Wheel Drive will help in winter weather – and you’re right! All Wheel Drive can also help you navigate roads with snow after the plow went through. Remember, All Wheel Drive is an assistant, and should be used along with your safe, responsible driving and common sense.