Driving in the Snow and Ice
10/31/2011It's just around the corner; winter is on the way and, if the past couple of winters are any indication, people as far south as central Georgia and Alabama, where snow is a rarity, could be looking at record snow and ice storms. That means a lot of drivers, who may have never driven in the snow, could be could be surprised by snow and ice while they are out on the road. For someone who has never driven in snow and ice, conditions on the road can be deceiving. A light dusting of snow can be treacherous and it can hide a layer of ice below. Novice drivers often find themselves spinning out of control because they failed to fully appreciate how slippery a small amount of snow fall can be. Here are some of the issues to be aware of:
- Bridges - When temperatures start to fall below zero, the first areas on the road to freeze will be bridges and over-passes. While the ground under a road surface will stay warm for a while, the frigid air is circulating both above and below the bridge surface dropping the temperature of the bridge surface rapidly. Even a small amount of moisture on the road can turn into almost invisible patches of ice on bridges and over-passes.
- Traction - You must drive slower; your tires will not have the same grip that they would on dry roads. Most state driver's manuals provide the following guidelines for driving in bad weather:
- Wet road: Slow down 5 to 10 mph.
- Packed snow: Slow down to half speed.
- Ice: Slow to a crawl.
- Visibility - Falling snow can make it difficult for you to see other vehicles and for them to see you. Treat snow just like fog; turn on your low-beam headlights (high beams will reflect off the snow and make it more difficult to see) and slow down. Before driving make sure you completely clean the snow off of all of your windows and lights. Many states also require that you remove accumulated snow and ice off the surfaces of your car to keep them from flying back and blinding the driver or damaging the vehicle behind you. If you expect snow or ice overnight, lift your windshield wipers away from your windshield to keep the rubber from freezing to the glass surface.
- Watch for Other Drivers - Other drivers who either don't know how to drive in snow and ice, or who think they can control their vehicle in spite of the road conditions can present a danger to other drivers on the road. If you see a driver like that approaching you, try to get out of the way and let them pass.