Submissions     Contact     Advertise     Donate     BlogRoll     Subscribe                         

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Driving on Ice

First, don’t do it if you don’t have to.

If you must drive in ice, you need to know your car and how it handles. Every car responds differently. If you can, practice in a large empty parking lot when there’s a light film of ice or snow so you learn your car’s braking and tire traction.

Those of us who live where it rarely ices or snows need to practice every time we get ice or snow because we never really get a chance to develop good slick driving skills.

Fill your gas tank, you’ll use more gas on ice and snow than any other weather. Keep extra gas with you just in case you need it to get to an open station.

It takes 2 to 3 times as long to brake in ice and snow as it does on wet roads, so leave extra distance between you and the car ahead of you and drive much slower. Better to arrive late than never at all.

Black ice is almost invisible and it forms in shady areas, on and under bridges, and on stretches of road near water like wet ditches, creeks, rivers, and lakes. Black ice is slipperier than ice that benefits from the pocking effects of sunlight, although dippled ice from uneven melting is still slippery and dangerous.

Front wheel drive cars are easier to handle on ice, but not safer to drive. The reason they handle better is that the weight of the car is on the drive shaft and the wheels that control the car, which bears on the ice better, giving yo better steering traction. Driving on ice is still dangerous, and you still have to be cautious. People driving giant SUVs need to be extra cautious because they can’t see the hazards as easily as someone in a smaller sedan.

ABS brakes offer some advantages over other braking systems if you use them right. You must apply slow, steady pressure. The braking system itself will pump for you as needed, you will feel it pulse. Don’t freak out, just let the brakes do their thing. Never manually pump ABS brakes. Apply steady pressure, and don’t “stand” on your brakes or your wheels will lock and you will spin out of control. Driving on ice is all about control.

If you don’t have ABS brakes, apply a slow, stead pumping pressure to your brakes until you stop. Steady pressure or “standing” on your brakes will result in uncontrolled skidding.

If you are in a skid and you’re driving a front wheel drive car, remove your feet from all the pedals – off the accelerator and off the brake – until you feel the tires grab the road again. Then gently steer your tires in the direction you want them to go. Only then do you start braking or accelerating again.

If you have a rear wheel drive car, remove your feet from all pedals and slowly try to steer in the direction you want to go. If you are still skidding out of control, counter steer (steer away from the skid until you feel the tires grab the road, then gently steer in the direction you want to go. Once the car is back under control, you may brake or accelerate.

In both cases, if your rear wheels are skidding left, steer left. If the rear tires start skidding to the right, steer gently to the right. You may have to steer both ways a few times to control the skid.

If your front wheels skid, don’t try to steer right away. Take your feet off all pedals and if you’re driving a manual transmission, shift to neutral. When you feel the tires “catch”, steer gently in the direction yu want to go. Then you can slowly accelerate.

If you are stuck, don’t spin your tires, this will only get you further stuck. Instead, shovel as much snow out of the way as you can. Turn your wheels from side to side to move snow away from the tires. Pour sand, clay kitty litter, gravel, or safe ice melt around and ahead of the tires, or lay down the carpet scraps. Use a light touch on the gas to ease your way out.

Do not “rock” your car (switch from drive to reverse rapidly) as it can damage your transmission and you’ll still be stuck.

Improve visibility as much as possible – remove all ice from every window, all snow from your hood, trunk, headlights, tail lights, signal lights, roof, mirrors, and fenders. Do NOT us e hot water to melt the ice, you’ll crack your windows. The best way is to use your ice scraper to score rectangles in the ice, then use the defroster o high to melt them a bit. Then use the ice scraper to push the rectangles off the car.

Keep your lights on LOW BEAMS high beams will cause glare and blind oncoming drivers who will then promptly crash into you. Low beams will let them see you without blinding you or them.

Leave extra room between you and the car ahead of you. Slow down if anyone chooses to be an ass and tailgate you. If you’re lucky, they will zoom around you, crash, and be out of your way and everyone else’s, too.

Posted speeds are for driving under ideal conditions. Ice is not ideal – slow down.

When driving uphill, pick a path that offers the most traction – unpacked snow is best. Leave lots of room for those who will backslide down the hill so they don’t slide into you. Keep a steady speed up a hill and don’t brake, or the weight of your car may cause you to slide down the hill. Momentum coupled with traction is what will get you over it.

Reduce your speed slowly before turns and curves in the road. Any sudden acceleration changes can cause a loss of traction and send you into a skid.

Never brake while you are actually on ice, this will cause you to skid. Brake before you reach the ice, while you have traction, and glide over the icy patch slowly steadily, and in as straight a course as you can steer.

Make sure your tires have good tread on them and are properly inflated so you have optimal traction. Here in the south, we generally don’t need snow tires or tire chains, so we have to learn to drive without them.

Never use cruise control on ice or snow.

In your emergency car kit, there are several extra things you need for winter driving. Shovels, extra blankets, bags of sand, pet-safe ice melt, carpet scraps that are at least 5 feet long and 3 times as wide as your tires, spare gloves and hats, an extra coat, a charged cell phone, flashlight, snowboots or goulashes, and extra socks. The carpet scraps can help with traction getting out of a slick parking space – either ice-slicked or mud-slicked.

My recommendation is to stay home and watch movies. If you must drive on ice, do so slowly. 35 mph is highway speeds on ice, keep to to 20 mph or slower. Stay in the more powerful low gears. Let the impatient ones drive to their accidents. You will safely, but slowly, pass them by.


No comments:

Post a Comment