I grew up in Ohio and learned to drive in all weather conditions, including ice and snow. Safety tips for driving in slick conditions were taught to me while I was a teenager.
Now I live in an area that almost never has snow or ice. Because these are such unusual conditions, the natives here do not know how to adjust to conditions. This is an important concept. Whenever we are suddenly facing driving conditions which are not familiar to us, we should always adjust to conditions. And, the first adjustment should be to slow down.
Is there suddenly water on the road? Slow down! Is it darker than usual, or visibility suddenly lessens, slow down! If the road conditions are different than what you expect, slow down!
The simplest rule for adjusting to changes in the road conditions is to always slow down. You cannot have control of your vehicle if you continue to travel at the same speed when the road conditions change.
One time we had a very unusual storm here, which did leave a small amount of snow on the ground. However, on the highway every bridge became icy. The snow should have been enough to slow the natives down, but no. They continued to drive at the same pace. Consequently, there was an accident on almost every bridge in the 30 miles I traveled on that highway.
Years ago I had to adjust my driving style from defensive driving to a strategy of driving to avoid being hit. We, as drivers, must take responsibility for the other people on the roads. These tragic winter pile-ups on the highways are avoidable! How? Slow down!
Here are some very helpful tips for driving in rain, snow, sleet and ice on the roads:
- Increase the following distance between you and the car ahead of you.
- Slow down. Maintain a constant, but slower, speed. However, do not drive so slowly that other drivers are forced to pass you.
- Never use cruise control in snow, ice or wet conditions: slick road surface conditions may cause the car to accelerate and go out of control.
- Look out for black ice. The noise of tires on snow fades when you’re on dangerous black ice. When you are in snow and ice conditions, turn your radio and cellphone off and listen to the road. Black ice is nearly invisible, so be extra careful on bridges and overpasses, because wind blows beneath them, so they are colder and freeze earlier.
- If your car starts to skid, don’t brake! Instead, steer into the skid until you regain control, then brake smoothly. Which way is the car skidding? If the back of the car is sliding to the left, steer to the left. If the back of the car is sliding to the right, steer to the right. As soon as the tires gain traction, begin braking (cautiously) and guide the car back in the direction you want it to go.
- If your car has an anti-lock braking system (ABS), keep your foot firmly on the brake when you need to stop on an icy road.
- If your car does not have anti-lock brakes, pump the brake to keep traction when braking on ice or snow.
- In fog, use low-beam headlights or fog lamps if you have them. High beams will reflect off the fog and reduce the viewing distance.
- In heavy fog, slow down and open your window enough to hear nearby traffic. Use signs and painted lines as a guide (if you have a passenger, ask him or her to help watch).
Most accidents in snow and ice conditions are due to the driver not adjusting for road conditions. If you’ve never driven in snow or ice, there is always one strategy of driving to reduce the potential for an accident: Slow down!