If you really must, here’s how to drive on ice

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Rural drive snowing Credit: Sean Gladwell
Rural drive snowing
Credit: Sean Gladwell

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If ice is covering the streets and highways, the best action to take is to surrender: Stay inside and don’t start your car until the ice has melted or been removed from the pavement. Experienced drivers agree that ice is tougher and riskier than snow to drive on.

If you must drive somewhere during icy conditions, remember the following facts and tips (provided by Triple A).

First, prepare a winter driving kit which includes:

  • Bag of abrasive material like sand, salt or cat litter
  • Small snow shovel
  • Snow brush
  • Traction mats
  • Ice scraper
  • Window-washing solvent
  • Flashlight
  • Booster cables
  • Warning flares or triangles
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Cloth or paper towels
  • Blanket
  • Charged cell phone
Car driving on snowy urban street at night Spaces Images
Car driving on snowy urban street at night
Spaces Images

Drive in a way that does not require you to frequently use your brakes.
That means drive slowly as you approach stop lights and stop signs.

If your wheels start to spin, let up on the gas pedal until traction returns. DO NOT use cruise control.

As you drive up and down hills, take the following approach during icy conditions:

  • Observe how other cars/drivers are reacting and keep far enough behind the cars ahead so you will not have to quickly stop. This will hopefully allow you to maneuver around stuck vehicles.
  • As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and go down the hill as slowly as possible. Try not to use your brake, but if you must, use gentle slow brake application instead of sudden braking.
  • For more tips (on steering and driving without antilock brakes, for example, click here to read the full report from Triple A.)
  • When your find yourself skidding, there are specific actions you should take, depending on whether it is your front or back tires in the skid.

If your rear-wheel lose traction, don’t oversteer or you could lose even more control.

Triple A recommends you:

  • Continue to look at your path of travel
  • Steer in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go.
  • You’ll be tempted to slam on the brakes, but don’t because it will only upset the vehicle’s balance and make it harder to regain control.
  • When the rear wheels stop skidding, continue to steer to avoid a rear-wheel skid in the opposite direction.

‘Compared to rear-wheel skids, front wheel skids are easier to correct and less hazardous because there is no risk of the vehicle skidding in the opposite direction,” Triple A says.

Credit: Harry Nowell Photography Inc
Credit: Harry Nowell Photography Inc

If your front wheels skid:

  • You will not be able to steer the vehicle.
  • Avoid slamming on brakes. Although hitting the brakes is a typical response,
    this will likely only make things worse.
  • Wait for your front tires to grip the road again. As soon as traction returns, the vehicle will start to steer again.
Credit: David Cheshire/LOOP IMAGES
Credit: David Cheshire/LOOP IMAGES

Other driving/safety tips:

  • Keep your gas tank at least half full.
  • Make certain your tires are properly inflated.
  • Never warm up your vehicle in an enclosed area, like a garage.
See more Ask the Experts



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