t’s that time of year! Icy roads are a driving hazard and in most areas, they only appear at certain times of the year which can make for untested driving skills. Icy roads can cause drivers to lose command of the wheel and spiral out of control. If you can’t stay home then you should heed some winter driving tips to avoid crashing in an icy road accident!
Remember that all-wheel drive (AWD) or 4-wheel drive and electronic stability control can get you into trouble by offering a false sense of security. AWD helps to prevent spinning wheels but it will not help you navigate a snowy bend in the road or to stop smoothly.
You can’t always prevent an icy road car accident but there are some things you can do to help you be prepared.
Icy Road Driving Tips
1. Invest in Snow Tires. If you live in a region that gets several snow falls each year or one where the snow never seems to clear up for months at a time, snow tires are worth the investment. Snow tires provide a certain standard of traction in the snow with at least 6/32-inch deep tread. Most standard car tires only have a tread of 10/32-inches. High performance summer tires and even all season tires don’t always have adequate traction for winter conditions. Look for the “snowflake on the mountain” symbol on the sidewall; that shows that they meet the tire-industry standard for snow traction.
2. Clean Windows are a Must. Ensure your wiper blades are in good condition, the inside of your windows aren’t wet with condensation and that your coolant is clean and topped up. An annual coolant cleaning is advised.
3. Run the Air-Conditioner. A great way to get rid of unwanted condensation and frost from the interior of windows is to turn on your air-conditioner and select the fresh air option. You can set the temperature to hot; many cars will do this automatically when you’ve selected the defrost setting.
4. Check that your Lights are Shining Bright. Always make sure that your head and taillights are clear of snow and that that they are working properly. Use your headlights in dark or snowy driving conditions.
5. Use your Brakes Wisely. To properly use antilock brakes: stomp, stay and steer. Stomp on the pedal firmly, stay hard on the pedal and steer slightly around the obstacle. This engages the antilock system and you will feel pulses in the pedal. On an icy road, ease up slightly on the pedal until the pulsing slows to only once per second. If you do not have anti-lock brakes, push the brake pedal hard until the wheel stops rolling, then immediately release the brake enough to allow the wheel to turn again. Repeat as needed in quick succession. Note that this is not the same as “pumping the brake.” Your goal is to have the tires produce maximum grip regardless of whether the surface is snow, ice or damp pavement.
6. Watch for “Black Ice.” Black ice or glare ice is deceptive and extremely dangerous because it is hard to see. If you suspect there is ice on the ground; drive carefully!
7. Don’t Over-Steer. If you lose control of your vehicle on an icy patch, stop steering. Once you pass the ice and your tires re-gain traction, the car will go in whatever direction you’ve turned the wheel.
8. Avoid Rear-Tire Slides. If you can, buy a car with electronic stability control (ESC). Federal regulations will make ESC mandatory on all 2012 models. If you do not have this option, then at least make sure that your rear tires have as much tread/traction as your front tires. If you buy winter tires it is imperative that you buy four matching tires.