How to Drive on Icy Roads
Slick streets? Stay safe with these tips.
Icy roads are one of winter’s biggest dangers: Slippery conditions contributed to more than 156,000 crashes annually from 2007–2016, according to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration. Fortunately, you can take simple steps to keep you safer during winter driving.
Change Your Tires
If cold, icy winters are common in your area, swap your regular tires for snow tires to gain more control. Snow tires have more contact edges than normal tires, allowing them to grip the road better. Also, the rubber on snow tires stays pliable in cold temperatures, which helps provide better traction.
- Think gradual. Quick movements, such as fast acceleration or sudden turns, have little effect on icy roads—you just spin your wheels or continue in the same direction. Slow your motions so your vehicle has time to respond. Brake gradually, too—slamming on the brakes, even antilock brakes, can cause your car to slide. To give yourself enough time to brake, allow up to 10 times the normal distance between your car and the car ahead of you.
- Slow Down. Remember that posted speed limits are for ideal driving conditions. If the roads are icy, reduce your speed to reduce the risk of getting in an accident.
- Correction. If your car starts to skid or slide, take your foot off the gas. Slowly turn the wheel in the direction you want the car to travel. If your vehicle has antilock brakes, apply firm pressure until you regain control (you can steer during this maneuver). If not, pump the brakes if your steering wheel begins to lock up. As your car spins, work to regain a neutral steering position. You have more control when your tires face the same direction.
Know the Roads
To stay ahead of icy roads, know when and where ice forms. Any winter precipitation can cause ice, as can sudden temperature changes. “Black ice” (a thin, almost invisible coat) is most likely to form on intersections, bridges, overpasses, underpasses and ramps. For more about dealing with black ice, follow this advice from MetLife.
Be Aware of Other Drivers
Driving slowly offers some protection from other drivers, but be sure to keep an eye on the cars ahead of and behind you. Brake lights ahead mean you should slow down. If a driver follows closely behind your vehicle, keeping a slow pace forces them to do the same.