Some people enjoy the experience of snowfall in the dead of winter, but most drivers will agree that its effect on the roads is more miserable than blissful. While they’re certainly a headache, winter storms can also be, more importantly, very dangerous due to a discreet presence of ice. Luckily, there are measures you can take to prepare for and safely navigate slick surfaces in your vehicle. Here are some helpful tips for driving on ice:
1. Check Your Tires
Tire tread gradually decreases from regular use, so you need to check your tire tread depth to ensure your tires aren’t too worn out. When tread depth falls to 2/32-inch, your tires need to be replaced. However, it’s important to note that tire performance in snow and icy conditions can start to drop at around 4/32-inch tread depth.
2. Increase Following Distance
Adding more distance between you and the vehicle in front of you allows you to assess the road farther ahead and brake from a greater distance to avoid losing control when you need to stop. Additionally, increased following distance gives you more time to react if you or the vehicle in front of you starts to skid.
3. Slow Down
The simplest and most obvious tactic can also be the most effective. The presence of ice results in a much less friction than is typical for pavement, so driving at higher speeds puts you at greater risk to lose control of your vehicle. Reducing your speed is a key component to maintaining traction while driving on icy roads.
4. Steer into Your Slide if You Lose Traction
If you do lose control of the vehicle and it starts to slide, remain calm, take your foot off the gas pedal and remember to steer the wheels in the same direction that the rear of the vehicle is sliding. Refrain from using the brake pedal because it can cause the sliding to worsen.
5. Avoid Roads with Steep Inclines or Declines
Elevating up a hill requires more power, but if you apply extra gas in icy conditions your tires can lose traction, causing your car to fall backward. While you don’t need that extra power to drive down a hill, you can still lose traction, and, in both cases, your speed will increase as you fall due to the gravitational force. This makes it harder to steer out of skidding and regain control.
It’s always important to remain focused and be alert while behind the wheel, but this is especially true when driving in snow and ice. Staying cautious and giving yourself extra time may not seem ideal, but it can make all the difference in safely reaching your destination. And, if the weather seems to be that bad, don’t be afraid to avoid driving completely - after all, that’s the safest choice you make to avoid an accident.