Driving on Ice

‘Tis the season for roads that make a car spin in circles and slam into trees. Here are a few tips to keep safe while driving in icy weather. 

Steer into it. That’s the very first thing that anyone trying to explain how to drive on ice will tell you. It’s harder to do than it sounds, though, if what’s waiting straight ahead is oncoming traffic, or the ditch. But it’s true: if you yank the wheel to the side trying to avoid skidding into danger, you will lose what little traction you have. 

Pump the brakes. Don’t slam on the brakes, gently step on them, then release the pressure, then put your foot down again. Repeat this until you stop. Again, easier to say than to do, but if you jam your foot onto the brake, the wheels will stop turning, and your car will likely slide forward, completely out of your control. 

Buy studded tires. Oh, but why should you buy studded tires that will just sit in the garage ten months out of the year, and you might not even put them on some years? Because every month you drive on the studded tires is an extra month added to the life of your regular tires. Because people who drive tricky roads for a living, like rural mail carriers, always own studded tires. Because studded tires will keep your vehicle grounded when the ice and snow want it to fly. 

Wear your seat belt. Hopefully you consider that an insulting suggestion, since you always wear your seat belt as a matter of course. In icy weather, though, if you don’t wear your seat belt, there’s not much to say except to wish you “happy landings.” 

Check the weather. Before you go out into cold weather, always find out what you’ll be driving into, and that doesn’t mean just look up as you’re hopping into your car. Consult the weather information source of your choice and make an informed decision before going out on the roads. 

Drive with your lights on. Even in daytime. Even in clear weather. It just makes sense to make yourself as visible as possible to other drivers. 

Plan your route. Look on a map. Think about where you’re going, and what’s between Point A and Point B. For instance, if you’re on the OSU campus and you need to get to Walnut Blvd., don’t go out 29th St., where there’s a steep hill just north of Circle Blvd. Think twice before going out Kings, with its moderate incline just before Walnut. You might want to go out 9th St. and take the gentler incline up Walnut. Or, if you’re going to Crescent Valley High School, don’t take Highland Blvd., which is not only hilly, but has some sharp turns. Instead, go out Hwy. 99W, turn at Lewisburg Rd. and get onto Highland from its other end.  

Don’t power through. If you can’t avoid going up a hill, take it carefully. Stepping on the gas will only make your wheels spin, and you’ll go slower or slide backwards.  

Never stop on a hill. That’s just asking for trouble. And you’ll probably end up leaving your car on that hill and walking. 

Don’t stop for stranded motorists. Of course you want to help. But if you stop your car beside the road, you could force other drivers to brake or change lanes or stop to help as well. Unless you see someone who is in immediate danger, have your passenger call 911 while you drive carefully past them. That’s the best way to help. 

Slow down. More than anything else, there’s one rule you should have no trouble following – slow down. Why? Because if your tires spin too fast, the part which is actually touching the road will skid rather than grip, making all of the advice above more urgent than it would be if you just get to where you’re going a few minutes later. Don’t ever drive faster than 45 miles per hour on ice. It also helps to drive in a lower gear than you normally would, and not to use cruise control. 

Stay home. Finally, carefully consider whether you really need to go out, or if you might be able to manage with what you’ve got. You’ve been getting a lot of practice at that lately, haven’t you? Think over whether you might be able to skip a trip out, or put it off for a less icy day.  

By: John M. Burt