Driving safely in icy conditions
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If you encounter icy road conditions when you’re driving, do you know how to handle your vehicle? And are you equipped to assist others?
Even the slightest bit of ice on the roads can make for treacherous conditions. Here are tips we’ve put together to help keep you as safe as possible this winter.
First, think about whether your journey is necessary and check projected forecasts, particularly in areas where temperatures can drop below zero. Tyre grip is hugely reduced on icy roads, so braking/stopping distances are much greater.
If travelling is essential, plan your route to avoid known affected areas. Tell family and friends of your intended route in case of an emergency. Always follow road rules and adapt your speed to suit the conditions.
If snowfall looks likely or the journey is one you’ll make frequently, a set of snow socks (high-grip fabric covers fitted over the driving wheels) or chains are worth carrying.
In cases of snow, there’s the potential of getting your vehicle stuck, which could result in a cold wait or chilly walk home.
If you don’t get stuck, the next driver might. So, before you leave home, pack a charged mobile phone, a charger cable, a bottle of water, warm clothes, snacks and a blanket.
Make sure the car’s windows and mirrors are clear before you set off. And in cars with selectable drive modes, select the best option for cold conditions.
How to drive on icy roads
Anticipation and smoothness is the key. Look ahead for potential hazards, changes in road surface appearance and behaviour of other vehicles. React early and keep to a lower speed.
Accelerate, brake, steer and change gear as smoothly as possible to cut the risk of a skid.
When setting off or driving uphill, try to use a higher gear to retain traction. Some automatics will let you select second gear at a standstill to pull away in.
Once you’re travelling at a safe speed, try to use a lower gear to maintain control. In automatics, use the L, 1 or 2 position to achieve maximum engine braking control downhill.
Never drive at a speed that does not allow you to stop within the distance you can see to be clear, taking into account the amount of grip your tyres have on the road.
Stopping distance on ice
Braking distances can increase tenfold on ice compared with on a dry road. So you should leave up to 10 times the normal recommended gap between your vehicle and the one in front. Remember that tyres grip less efficiently in cold conditions. Even if the temperature is above zero and there’s no ice on the road, you should take extra care.
Black ice is a thin layer of ice on the road. Because it is smooth and transparent, it appears the same colour as the road below. Black ice can be almost invisible, which makes it dangerous. As a guide, if the temperature is low and the road surface looks “wet”, be careful and allow plenty of space between you and the car in front.
Correcting a skid on ice
Continue to look and steer in the direction you want to go. Take your foot off the accelerator and avoid slamming on the brakes. Use the gears to slow down if necessary, but avoid any sudden destabilising movements.