The first step to becoming a safe driver in icy conditions starts before you put the key in the ignition. By checking and maintaining your car's safety systems, you can make sure you won't be caught unprepared once you hit the roads. Make sure your windshield wipers are functioning, and don't forget to check the level of your wiper fluid in the process. Test your front and rear defrosters as well; impaired visibility is the last thing you want when driving on ice. If your car's battery hasn't been replaced in years, you should consider getting a new one. Top off your antifreeze as well. If you're running low, you can damage your car's cooling system. Lastly, don't let the gas tank get below half empty in the winter.
After you've checked to make sure your car is in great running condition, take the time to stock up on some items that can prove useful in an emergency. Pack your car with items like jumper cables, an ice scraper, an emergency kit, a flashlight and fuel line de-icer. Sand or cat litter can be a lifesaver if you get stuck on icy roads. You may want to keep a bag of one or the other in your trunk during the winter and pour it under your tires to get some much-needed traction. Also consider keeping some blankets and snacks in your car in case you find yourself stranded for a little while. You don't want to add "cold" and "hungry" to your list of problems.
Once you've prepared your car for winter weather, keep these driving tips in mind to make your journey go smoothly. Use your car's lower gears on icy roads, particularly when you're going up hills. In addition, don't engage cruise control or overdrive on your car, since you'll be sacrificing control in the process.
If you do find yourself skidding on ice, don't make any drastic corrections or slam on the brakes. Instead, as we just discussed, gently steer into the direction of the skid and apply the gas once you've regained traction. If you're stuck, don't floor the gas in an attempt to power out of ice or snow; you'll only dig yourself deeper in the process. Instead, place cardboard, cat litter, sand or even your car's floor mats under the car's wheels and try to gently pull out of the slippery area. With a little patience, you should be back on your way in no time.
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Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Adams, Cecil. "Is there really such a thing as black ice?" The Straight Dope. July 9, 2002. (11/16/2009) http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2016/is-there-really-such-a-thing-as-black-ice
- American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). "Speed." (11/16/2009) http://www3.acep.org/patients.aspx?LinkIdentifier=id&id=26102&fid=1348&Mo=No&acepTitle=Speed
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. "Driving Tips - Winter." Jan. 4, 2009. (11/9/2009) http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/safety_haz/icesnow.html
- Grant. "Tire Chains and Snow Tires 101." Jan. 12, 2009. (11/9/2009) http://www.seattleauto.net/tire-chains-and-snow-tires-101
- LeDuff, Charlie. "In California Sierra, Chains Make the Man." New York Times. Jan. 11, 2005. (11/9/2009) http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/11/national/11chains.html
- Minnesota Department of Transportation (DOT). "Anti-Icing on Minnesota Roads." Dec. 27, 2002. (11/16/2009) http://www.research.dot.state.mn.us/news.asp?storyID=65
- National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. "Getting Your Vehicle Ready for Winter." (11/9/2009) http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/cars/glovebox/tm03.htm
- Piazza, Alex. "Higher salt prices may mean slippery road." Travers City Record-Eagle. Nov. 5, 2009. (11/9/2009) http://www.record-eagle.com/local/local_story_309065706.html
- Reid, Hamish. "California Driving: Road and Weather Conditions." California Driving. (11/9/2009) http://www.caldrive.com/conditions.html
- Reuters. "AAA Chicago Offers Tips for Driving on Ice and Snow." Dec. 16, 2008. (11/16/2008) http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS205236+16-Dec-2008+BW20081216
- Salt Institute. "Winter road safety." (11/9/2009) http://www.saltinstitute.org/Uses-benefits/Winter-road-safety
- SixWise.com. "The Top Six Winter Driving Dangers and How to Handle Them Safely." Dec. 12, 2004. (11/9/2009) http://www.sixwise.com/newsletters/04/12/12/the-top-six-winter-driving-dangers-and-how-to-handle-them-safely.htm
- The Weather Channel. "Driving in Snow and Ice." (11/9/2009) http://www.weather.com/activities/driving/drivingsafety/drivingsafetytips/snow.html
- U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). "How Do Weather Events Impact Roads?" May 11, 2009. (11/9/2009) http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/Weather/q1_roadimpact.htm