Stopping on icy roads

Posted on January 29th, 2015 by James Luckhurst

Winter icy roadIn today’s society, too many of us seem to be in a hurry. It’s a “go, go, go” mentality for many of us. But even though we may seem to be busy or in a hurry, there are times we need to slow down and stop.

This is particularly true when it comes to driving.

On normal road conditions it can be easy enough, but what happens when the roads become slippery with rain, snow or ice? One thing to remember is that speed limits are set for ideal conditions. Icy road conditions are not normal and should never be treated as such. Maintaining control of your vehicle is far better than regaining control. This means you never actually lost control of it.

Proactive thinking is one of the best ways to maintain control of your vehicle.The first thing to remember while driving on icy roads is to do things gradually. This includes gradually easing off the accelerator, gradually applying the brakes and gradually steering. Sudden changes on an icy road means skids.

By the way, you can skid or slide without touching your brakes. A sudden turn of the steering wheel may cause your vehicle to understeer – which means your car will go straight, even though you might be turning the wheel steering wheel.

We drive with our eyes, so it’s vital to keep looking well ahead of where you currently are on the road. If you spot red traffic lights ahead or brake lights well ahead (not from the vehicle immediately ahead of you), you should begin slowing down. You know you’re going to need to slow down eventually, so why wait, especially on predictably slippery road surfaces?

Predicting black ice can also give you a head start on braking safely. Shaded road surfaces, on and under bridges are areas which freeze much sooner than other areas and stay frozen well after the sun has risen. This is normally where black ice is formed. Look for black shiny road surfaces and reduce speed and avoid sudden changes of speed and direction in those areas.

If you do begin to slide while braking on icy roads, ease slightly off your brakes to allow the wheels to rotate once again. Look well ahead and aim for open space. This may mean a drive, lay-by or car park. Staring at the vehicle ahead of you may mean that’s where you’ll end up.

I remember on my driving test in January 1982 that I had to pump the brake during my emergency stop on a road that turned out to be slippery. It stopped us, but it took a long time. A better solution is to increase pressure on your brakes but begin earlier than you would on dry road surfaces. This continuous pressure will allow your wheels to rotate and allow your tyres to grip the road continuously.

Don’t rely on your anti-lock brakes to stop you either. On icy roads they have a difficult time gripping as well. Early braking is still the key to stopping safely on icy roads.