Driving a car on the ice requires a different set of skills than driving on dry pavement or even rainy conditions. You can’t get away with the things you normally might like speeding, quick lane changing and other questionable driving practices. Your total stopping distance is greatly reduced and handling ability is at a minimum. Your reaction time is a fraction of what it is on dry pavement. This means you must plan ahead and be pro active and intentionally planning for what could happen. People often ask me what to do when the roads are ice covered and my advice is usually STAY HOME! If you don’t have that luxury here are some tips.
A. Reduce your speed
B. Stay off the brakes
C. Increase your following distance
D. Increase your visual lead time.
Reduce your speed in general when you know conditions are icy. When you know the streets are icy or may have patches of ice. It just makes sense to go slowly. This reduced speed will help make up for the lack of traction you will need in an emergency. Imagine you are coming to an intersection and a truck is coming through from the side street and they try to stop and they can’t because of the ice. You will have to be the one to react to save the situation and not hit them. If you are speeding you will not have the time or distance to save the day. If you have followed the rules listed above, you have options. If you are driving slow enough, you can gently brake with a gentle squeezing action on the brake pedal and avoid an accident by stopping in time.
Another situation you may find yourself in is your own car losing control on the ice. This usually results in “fishtailing” which is the rear of the car swerving left or right and in the worst case scenario you would be skidding down the road sideways. The first thing you do is Stay off the brakes! Braking will only make you skid more and be more out of control. This is hard to learn because your first reaction is usually to hit the brakes whenever you are in trouble. As soon as you begin to skid you should take your foot off of the accelerator (gas pedal). This action alone will often end the skid and your car will straighten out.
Increase your following distance from the cars in front of you when you know the roads could be slick. The normal following distance is three to four seconds form the car in front of you. Increase this to six to seven seconds. This will help to give you the total stopping distance and reaction time you require in bad weather.
You should always look far ahead of you when you’re driving reactions could be compromised by icy roads. Increase your visual lead time and you will give yourself few extra seconds to react. You would be able to react by braking sooner or driving into the ditch to avoid hitting a car. Remember these tips the next time the roads are compromised by weather.