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How to Drive on Icy Roads

Updated April 17, 2017

Icy roads are one of the biggest challenges to winter drivers. Learning the proper techniques and being prepared with the right tools will keep this risky process less dangerous. More than any other time on the road, drivers need to be aware of their behaviour as well as others.

Keep more of a distance between you and other cars than normal. Stopping on icy roads will take longer than normal braking. If other cars are riding your bumper and you are uncomfortable driving faster on the ice, pull over enough to allow them to pass. This will prevent them from accidentally rear-ending you in their impatience.

Watch the road as far ahead as you can and be aware of black ice. Black ice will look like a wet patch on the asphalt, but it is slick, solid ice and very dangerous. Notice marks in the shoulder of the road to indicate where other drivers have skidded. There may be black ice there.

Notice the differences in the feel of the car as you pass over wet, snowy and icy asphalt. Similar to hydroplaning, driving over ice will cause a difference in the feel of the car as you drive. When you feel the change, avoid any sudden braking or turning of the steering wheel.

If you must brake on an icy stretch for an upcoming stoplight or sign, begin slowly and start doing it a long distance away. Aim to leave a longer distance between the stop point or car ahead of you.

If you skid, release the brake and turn the steering wheel in the direction of the skid. For example, if your back wheels fishtail right, turn the steering wheel to the right. This counteracts the motion of the skid and will usually stop the spin.

Brake before approaching a curve and reduce the speed to a speed the curve can handle. Once in the curve, release the brake and allow the weight of the car to propel it through the curve. As the road straightens out again, accelerate. Steer smoothly, without jerky movements, throughout the curve.

Tip

Remember, bridges and elevated sections of roads, like ramps and exits, will ice before roads will. Four-wheel drive vehicles are the best and safest vehicles for driving on ice. They are the least likely to spin off in a ditch. Make sure everyone in the vehicle is wearing a seat belt at all times. Know emergency numbers for 24-hour tow services and keep them handy in the vehicle. If your area has severe winters, invest in snow tires or snow chains.

Warning

Never use cruise control for winter driving. Even if the roads are not icy, hitting a sudden freeze on a bridge in cruise control can be dangerous. Do not turn "doughnuts" or circles in commercial car parks. You may lose control and cause an accident with another vehicle. Also, local police often watch large car parks for offenders and you will get a ticket for reckless driving.

Things You'll Need

  • Snow tires
  • Chains
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About the Author

Amanda Herron is a photojournalist and writer whose credits include: "Georgia Realtor Magazine," "Jackson Parent Magazine," "Christian Guitarist and Bassist" and the Associated Press. Herron has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and a Master of Arts in Education from Union University. She is a member of the NPPA and has awards from the Tennessee Press Association and Baptist Press.