Ice, ice baby
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If you are driving a vehicle this winter and run into icy road conditions, 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 driving conditions.
How to prepare for driving in 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 snowfall looks likely or this journey will be carried out often, a set of snow socks (high-grip fabric covers fitted over the car’s driving wheels), or chains are also worth carrying.
In cases of snow, there’s also the potential of getting your vehicle stuck which could result in a cold wait or a chilly walk home.
If you don’t get stuck, the next driver might, so, before you leave home, make sure you pack a charged mobile phone (and charger cable), a bottle of water, warm clothes, a few snacks and
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 for driving on icy roads. Look well ahead for potential hazards and keep your speed well down.
Accelerate, brake, steer and change gear as smoothly as possible to reduce the risk of
A higher gear may be appropriate to aid grip on packed ice. This helps manage engine power delivery, making it easier to find traction. If it’s a manual, you might need to use the clutch a little to prevent the car from stalling. Many automatics will let you select second gear at a standstill to pull away in.
What is the stopping distance on ice?
Braking distances can increase tenfold on ice compared with a dry road. For this reason, you should leave up to 10 times the normal recommended gap between you and the car in front.
Remember that tyres grip less efficiently in cold conditions. So even if the temperature is above zero and there’s no ice on the road, you should take extra care.
What is black ice?
Black ice is a thin layer of ice on the road surface. Because it is smooth and transparent, it appears the same colour as the road below it.
Black ice can be almost invisible to drivers, which makes it particularly 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.
How to identify and drive on black ice
Sometimes black ice appears as a glossy sheen on the road. If you’re lucky you may see it glinting in the sunlight, or spot cars ahead swerving for no obvious reason but in majority of cases, it’s likely you won’t see black ice at all.
Be particularly cautious on shaded stretches of road, bridges, flyovers and tunnels — anywhere the surface temperature may be lower. Quiet roads are also more likely to be affected.
How to correct 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 — although this might be a natural response, it will only upset the vehicle balance and make it harder to regain control.
Use the gears to slow down if necessary, but avoid any sudden movements that could destabilise the car.
And if you must travel ...
If you have to travel, plan your route to avoid known affected areas. We also recommend informing relatives and friends of your intended route in case of an emergency. Always follow road rules and adapt your speed to suit the conditions.