Staying Safe When Driving in Icy Conditions

icy road

While the warm summer months provide ideal driving conditions, if you live in an area where you can expect ice and snow in the winter, this can change drastically. It’s crucial to stay safe on the roads, both for yourself and for other road users, and snow and ice can make this a challenge. So, how do you prepare to drive in icy conditions?

Plan Your Route Carefully

Before you set off, make sure you know the route you intend to take along with three or four alternatives in case of road closures. When picking your path, try to stick to the main highways. These roads will be well maintained and are much more likely to be gritted to prevent ice. If you do find yourself on smaller roads, take extra care as you drive, and try to get back on the main highway if you can.

Carry a Map or GPS

Most people rely on satellite navigation to guide them on their route. However, when driving in icy conditions, it is useful to have a paper map of the area with you in the car. The last thing you want is to get stuck in traffic or break down somewhere, and for the battery to die on your phone. A paper map means that no matter what happens, you will always be able to navigate your way to where you want to be.

Pack the Essentials

It is worth keeping a few essentials like food and water, a first aid kit, and some warm clothes in your car, just in case you end up stuck. It’s also worth having a few tools and a high viz jacket in case you break down. Even if you can’t use them yourself, a helpful passer-by may be able to give you a hand if you have all the equipment.

Pull Off In a High Gear

As well as preparing for your journey, you should also make changes to the way you drive. If you are driving a manual transmission, you should avoid using the lowest gears to prevent skidding on the ice. Try to pull off in 3rd gear, and if you are struggling shift back down to 2nd. Some automatic cars also have a manual setting, and some even have a winter mode that uses higher gears and a smoother transition.

Brake Gently

It won’t come as a surprise that your car tires do not grip well on snow and ice. Your chances of skidding are much higher, so always gently apply the brakes, and if you feel the car skid, release and try again. Because you are braking softly, you have to keep a long way behind the car in front, so always err on the safe side. If you feel like you may not be able to stop in time, drop back a little further.

Expect the Unexpected

Even if you prepare correctly, accidents can still happen. Bear in mind, that there will be plenty of other road users who are not taking the correct precautions, so you need to anticipate as much as you can. Look out for anything you think is dangerous, and try to leave as much distance between you and other vehicles as you can.

Take Your Time

Lastly, remain patient. No matter how far the drive, it is not worth the risk of rushing and getting involved in an accident. Take your time, and stop for coffee if you can to keep yourself alert. Safety is paramount, so don’t worry about how long your journey will take, just that you will get there safely.

Driving in icy conditions can be dangerous, so if you can avoid making a trip, then you probably should. However, taking the car is sometimes unavoidable, so take every precaution you can to stay safe. Prepare well, and pay extra attention to the roads, and you should have no need to worry.

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