Rules of the icy road
Losing control of your vehicle on an icy winter highway can be frightening. Nearly one quarter of all weather-related vehicle accidents take place on slushy, snowy or icy roads, according to the Federal Highway Administration. That translates into 1,300 people killed each year while driving in such conditions, and 116,800 injured.
While there’s no way to guarantee absolute safety on the roads in winter, there is plenty you can do to decrease your chances of being involved in an accident.
Avoid icy roads. Watch the weather forecast. Precipitation, combined with freezing or near-freezing temperatures can put a dangerous glaze on roads and bridges. If possible, don’t drive in such conditions, unless you’re confident the roads have been treated with sand or de-icing agents.
Slow down. If you must drive in icy conditions, the number-one rule is “slow down.” At speeds of 45 mph or more, it’s almost impossible for any driver, no matter how experienced or skilled, to react quickly enough to correct sliding out or fishtailing in time to stop an accident. Black ice conditions have been known to spin vehicles off the road at speeds of 10 mph or less. Leave plenty of room between you and the driver in front of you.
Don’t slam on the brakes. Even with the advanced braking systems in today’s vehicles, slamming on the brakes is never a good idea.
Stay calm. That’s always easier said than done in emergencies where seconds count. But panicking and over-correcting, or turning the steering wheel against the slide, can send the car into an out-of-control spin.