Dec 20, 2011 12:05 AM by John Romero

Staying safe on icy roads

As winter descends on Southern Colorado, no doubt we'll see cars slipping and sliding all over our roads. Whether you're a life time Coloradan or a newbie, those slick roads seem to get us all. But it doesn't have to be that way. We drove along with the instructors at Master Drive to see what common mistakes most of us make.

The biggest mistake is the dreaded ice slide. Instructor Spencer Pace says to think of it like you're walking. "If you think about it, if you're walking on ice you walk smooth." he explains, "Any abrupt movements are going to cause problems. It's the same thing in a car."

Your best bet to avoid catastrophe is to stay calm and know where you want your car to go. "Look where you want the car to go and just steer towards it." says Pace, "Stopping in snow and ice isn't always that easy, but if you can just maintain steering control by looking where you want to go and steering that way, you'll probably save yourself from crashing."

The second most common mistake many people make is flooring the gas when you get stuck. "When those tires are spinning, that's just causing more friction against that snow surface. That friction creates heat and melts the snow." says Pace, "But as soon as you stop, that snow now becomes ice and you're worse off than when you started." Master Drive's tip is to use a light touch on the gas to ease your car out. Dumping a little sand or kitty litter for traction doesn't hurt either.

The icy driving mistakes aren't only on you. "More often than not, in town the intersections are going to ice up first." explains Pace. The high congestion of an intersection makes it a prime spot for a quick transition from wet to icy. While you may be slowing down, others may be losing control. "If it's snowy and icy check both sides of the intersection before you go." says Pace, "There may be somebody sliding through the intersection that didn't anticipate it at the time."
Just by staying alert and slowing down you can ultimately save lives of others and yourself.

Here are some more safe driving tips we've collected from AAA

Tips for driving in the snow:

• Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don't try to get moving in a hurry. And take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.

• Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning - nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement. Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.

• The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.

• Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.

• Don't stop if you can avoid it. There's a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.

• Don't power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down hill as slowly as possible.

• Don't stop going up a hill. There's nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.

• Stay home. If you really don't have to go out, don't. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Don't tempt fate: If you don't have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.



»Topics in this article

Most Popular

Top Videos

1 2 3 4