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7 Ways to Stay Safe on Roads Slippery From Snow and Ice

Author: Simon Byholm

Winter is here and where I live in Finland we have just had our first snow with many drivers on slippery roads on plain summer tires.

Yesterday I was doing a 60 mile trip on smaller rural roads where the snow had not been melted away by heavy traffic and salt, summer tires still on, and I thought to myself:

It's not really dangerous or difficult to drive on slippery roads as long as you know what to do and when, you just have to adopt a different style of driving and you'll be as safe as on dry summer roads.

Rule #1: Slow down

Whatever you do you can never reach the same speed on a slippery road as on a dry one. Always plan for lower speeds and longer travel times.

Rule #2: Be really soft on the pedals

Normally your car is rolling on four wheels, this makes it possible to steer it in different directions with your steering wheel.

On slippery roads if you press the gas pedal hard to accelerate, or if you try to break aggressively your wheels will lock.

This turns your car into an object sliding in stead of rolling on the ice, you will have no control over it and it will go straight forward, or if the road is slanted it will slide off the road

Rule #3: Keep your distance and slow down in time

One of the most common accidents at winter is to drive into the car in front of you when it's breaking and you notice too late.

The solution is to always maintain a good distance to the car in front, 50-300 feet depending on your speed. If the car in front of you slows down, you should slow down in time so you can keep the distance.

Always slow down when you come to a crossing, even if you don't see any other cars near. If there's a surprise you will still be able to stop or turn if you go slow enough.

Rule #4: Break safely

If you lose control when breaking you will have to quickly and temporarily release the breaks, get control, steer the car in the right direction and then continue breaking.

Sometimes the only way to avoid a accident is to not break at all and instead steer clear of the obstacle.

If your car is equipped with automatic breaking system (ABS) it's often better to just break and let the car maintain control. But if it's really slippery even your ABS might lose control and in that case do as above, stop breaking for a second or two and then when you're in control try breaking again. Read more about your ABS system in your cars manual.

Rule #5: Accelerate safely

Basically your car can either steer or accelerate. On dry roads there is enough grip to both steer and accelerate at the same time, but not on snow and ice.

Never accelerate when the road is turning, you need your grip to handle the turn. If you have to accelerate do it slowly and if you lose grip pull back a little on the accelerator until you regain control of your car.

When accelerating too aggressively a rear wheel drive car will lose grip at the read with the risk of spinning around while a front wheel drive car will lose grip in front and unable to turn it will go straight where it's heading.

In case you're car is equipped with a traction control system (TCS) it will help you maintain control during acceleration. You will find more information in your cars manual.

Rule #6: Use good winter tires

If you have snow and ice for over a month during winter, consider getting good snow tires. They will shorten your breaking distance and help you keep control of the car on slippery surfaces.

You may also want to check your local laws and regulations in case snow tires are mandatory, or if snow tires with spikes are not allowed at all.

You can get good snow tires at a great price from The Tire Rack , they have a good selection of tires, wheels, brakes, suspension and other peformance products

Rule #7: Practice and learn

If you have a safe place to practice ice driving, do it! Nothing can prepare your for an emergency like trying to break and avoid an obstacle on slippery surface.

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Simon Byholm runs the free Gas Mileage Calculator at where you can calculate your true gas mileage and get tips and tricks on how to improve the mpg of your car. He is also a software engineer with a B.Sc degree in electrical engineering and a proud owner of a diesel powered car.

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