How to drive on Icy Roads

  • The #1 icy road driving tip: Reduce your speed. …
  • The #2 icy road driving tip: Don’t drive on icy roads. …
  • Wear your seat belt! …
  • Pay attention to the weather. …
  • Go easy on your brakes. …
  • Turn into a slide. …
  • Icy road accidents happen in multiples. …
  • Don’t stop for accidents or stranded vehicles along an icy roadway.
  • “Bridge Freezes Before Road”. Those signs you see ARE true! One of the most dangerous types of road icing threats comes from bridges and overpasses. A bridge is exposed to air on all of its surfaces – on top, underneath and on its sides. By contrast, a normal road surface is only exposed to air on one side, its top surface. When temperatures drop, this means bridges will cool and accumulate snow and ice faster than roadways on solid ground (watch the animation above).
  • An icy bridge’s most dangerous threat is their element of suprise – they catch drivers off guard, who are traveling at full speed because the rest of the roads are either clear or just a little wet. The consequences of driving onto ice at highway speeds can be catastrophic, as the loss of control and impacts happen much faster than in most other conditions. Slides are often unrecoverable and chain-reaction type accidents are common, as additional vehicles will often lose control in the exact same location.
  • you’re sliding and fishtailing at all, it means that you are going too fast for the conditions. If you drive at a safe speed on ice and snow (45mph / 70km/h or less) and avoid sudden braking, acceleration or turns, you won’t need to worry about correcting anything – a much better outcome. The higher the speed, the more difficult it is to correct a slide. Most slides or fishtails that happen above 45mph (70km/h) require very quick and precise steering to correct, and are beyond the ability of most drivers to successfully manage. With that in mind, remember the following if you are involved in an accident on an icy road:
  • DO:
  • On an icy road, the danger doesn’t end after your own accident – it can actually get worse as other vehicles lose control at the same place you did. A large percentage of icy road fatalities result from people exiting their vehicles, only to be hit by secondary out-of-control vehicles following the initial accident.
  • If your vehicle is still driveable, keep moving! Keep going until you arrive at a safe place to pull well off the road. Not only are you at risk from additional out-of-control vehicles, you may actually cause additional accidents by remaining on the road. If your accident involved other vehicles that are all still driveable, and if there are no injuries, encourage everyone to move to the nearest safe location off of the road.
  • If your car is disabled, stay in your vehicle if traffic is approaching. You have a better chance surviving another car or truck crashing into you if you are inside of your car, rather than standing outside in the open. Cars can absorb vehicle impacts better than your body can!
  • If possible, get away from the road as quickly as you can. Once you are sure that no traffic is approaching, exit your vehicle and immediately get as far off the road as you can. Be careful, as the icy pavement will be tricky to walk on. Climb up an embankment, get behind a guardrail or jersey barrier – anything that will get you out of the way of additional sliding vehicles.
  • If it is not possible to get off the road, stay in your car. If you are in the middle of a bridge with no way to escape, stay in your vehicle. Your vehicle can absorb further direct impacts from sliding cars better than your body can!
  • DO NOT:
  • Don’t get out of your car and stand on the road. Don’t worry about inspecting the damage to your car – worry about the other cars and tractor-trailers that are hurtling toward the same icy spot that you just wrecked on! People standing outside on icy roads after surviving their own accident are often struck and killed in secondary accidents.
  • Don’t stop for accidents or stranded vehicles along an icy roadway. Being a Good Samaritan is a noble thing, but on an icy road, it can cause more problems than it solves. Parking on the side of an icy highway can cause passing drivers to brake and lose control, putting the lives of everyone involved in danger. Unless the stranded driver is in immediate danger, the best thing you can do is contact the authorities (call 911), who are equipped to safely block the road or divert traffic while a tow truck can do the job properly.


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