How to Drive Better on Icy Roads

Driving on an icy road is like taking part in an unscripted freakshow. The constant slipping and sliding and crashing make life incredibly stressful. But, while it may seem like there is no solution to this hell, driving skills on icy roads can be improved by following a few simple steps.

Knowing the enemy

Before talking about how to drive better, it is important to know what an icy road is and why it is problematic. An icy road is a road that has a slippery layer of ice covering it. This ice makes the road surface smooth and slick. Because of this, friction is compromised making all types of vehicle more slip-prone. Cars fail to grip the road and can lose control both while accelerating and decelerating. Icy roads can also be deceptive. Thin layer of ice called ‘black ice’ is the most dangerous. This is an extremely thin layer, through which the pavement bellow can be seen. As a result, road users cannot tell whether or not there is a layer of ice on the road. Black ice, despite the apparent non-existent look, has all the slippery properties of a ‘normal’ visible layer of ice, making it the most difficult type of icy situation to handle.

Driving tips

Icy roads are not cool. They are hard to navigate your way through. They add buckets of stress to your life. But you can get better at driving in icy roads with some due diligence.

1.

Firstly, you must slow down. When you are already struggling for traction, speeding makes zero sense. So, slow down and take your time. Not only will this help you lower you chances of skidding in the first place, going lower speeds will also means that in-case you need to come to a halt, you have less speed to decelerate from.

2.

Secondly, maintain a safe distance from other cars. On icy roads, you are not the only one facing traction issues. Other cars skid too. By maintaining a safe distance, you decrease chances of someone hitting you. Alternatively, you- if you lose control- can avoid hitting someone else. Also, if someone in front has crashed or started slipping, you can apply brakes or deviate to avoid them.

3.

Talking about crashes, it is important you do not stop to be a good Samaritan if you see a crash. Although it is a natural urge, stopping to help might affect situations adversely. By stopping on the road, you are creating a blockage which would cause other drivers to panic-brake. This panicked braking often ends up in those drivers themselves crashing. And as it is a road with oncoming traffic, cars can easily pile up creating a horde crash.

4.

The fourth aspect to keep in mind is that you have to drive smooth. On icy roads, it is imperative that you apply gas and brake smoothly. You are already lacking proper friction and the last thing you need is to either spin up your wheels by accelerating too hard or start skidding by braking too hard. Accelerating slowly might feel painstaking, but it is a must. And consider you braking distance tripled on an icy road. This would help you brake smoother.

5.

The fifth trick is to look far ahead. Due to the lack of grip, any action on an icy road takes more time. So, look as far as you can in order to have enough time and distance to react in case you have to. Constantly looking out and concentrating can be draining. But it is, after all for your safety.

6.

Next up, you must watch out for black ice. As discussed before, black ice is treacherous and often hits you when you least expect it. Have a keen and watchful eye searching for black ice. Focus on the road and try to assess whether it is getting shinier and slick looking. If you see a shiny patch, drive through it carefully. Deliberately slow down and take care.

7.

The seventh rule you can follow- if you have a newer model year car- is to take assist from the safety systems and AWD (if you have an AWD car). Systems like ESC can detect lack of traction and manipulate power levels to reduce skidding. The ABS system can manipulate brake forces levels to help you while braking. Although, you should not depend completely on these systems, you should know how these work and be able to take advantage of these systems.

Ultimately, you must stay calm if you begin to skid. Panicking, mashing brakes, veering to the opposite direction will not help with skidding. Instead, you have to be cool. If your car begins to skid, do the following:

  • Avoid veering to the opposite direction you are skidding to. This will not only be of no help, but will cause your car to sway harder and get out of control like a bull. When you start slipping, take hold of the steering and look where you want to go because that’s where you will end up. Look ahead, and steer only to avoid obstacles.
  • Do not press the gas if you front wheels are spinning. Stay off the gas and in time, your front wheels will regain traction.
  • Start steering in the same direction in a rear wheel spin. If your rear wheels are spinning and you can feel the rear end of your car peeping out, start steering in the direction where your rear end is going. Do not steer the opposite direction as you might end up doing a 360 and start going in donuts. Steering in the same direction will keep you going relatively straight. Slowly ease of the gas; avoid hitting the brakes and in due time, you will gain back traction.

Conclusion

Driving on icy roads is a challenge. It is a fantasy ride with deadly rewards. And everyone on an icy road is playing a game of free-for-all. The stress levels are immense and it genuinely feels like it is impossible to be a good driver on icy roads. But with care and abiding by the above rules and tricks, you can become a good driver on icy roads.

Drive Safely

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