Tips for driving on ice this winter (Pt. 1)

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Both drivers were at fault in this accident. First, they were both traveling in the same direction on Hwy 97 in Central Oregon. As you can see the road conditions are snowy and icy. The truck on the left lost control and jack-knifed. Then the following truck, the Werner Enterprises blue truck crashed into it. Both were traveling too fast for the condition, and the Werner truck was following too close and was not able to stop.

Driving on ice is tricky, particularly when you're behind the wheel of a semi truck. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Tom Brandt/Flickr)

Drivers, fall is in full swing, which means winter isn’t far away. Icy conditions in northern climes equate to very dangerous roadways, which in turn require special defensive driving techniques. Here are some tips for how to drive on ice so you won’t find yourself in the unenviable position of being “on ice.”

Driving on ice – Only if you have to

If winter driving can be avoided, it should be. Consumer vehicles are not designed to provide foolproof traction in all road conditions involving ice, black ice, snow and standing water. The best winter tires with chains, studs, siping and optimal tread patterns help, but nothing will protect a car from slipping and drifting under all winter driving scenarios. If you must brave the elements and drive their car, truck, SUV or van – don’t even attempt to drive a motorcycle on icy roads – be cautious and use the techniques in this article as applicable.

]If you’re running a multi-ton Mack truck in your own “Ice Road Truckers”-style fantasy, watch that show to see how those brave souls deal with the most extreme driving conditions. For the rest of us who want to avoid becoming a statistic – nearly 500 U.S. drivers perished on icy roads between 2008 and 2009 – there are ways to prepare and minimize winter driving risks as much as possible.

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Driving on ice – Batting loss of traction

Good traction always starts with good tires, no matter the weather or roadway conditions. Even a 4WD vehicle needs proper tires, despite its increased ability to hug ice-covered roads better than 2WD counterparts. Proper inflation and at least adequate tread level are musts if you plan to take on winter’s icy roads. Ideally, you’ll want to at least have studded snow tires for your vehicle, although certain roads may require chains. Keep in mind that with chains, you won’t be able to drive much faster than 30 mph. Consider the ice and the slope of the road in areas where chains are required, however, and you’ll quickly discover that you won’t want to drive any faster.

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All-weather tires with a winter tread pattern are also helpful on icy roads, but to a lesser degree. If you are using such tires and the tread permits it, have a tire shop sipe the tires. Siping is a procedure where a machine is used to carve a series of micro-grooves into the rubber that improve grip when the tires are in contact with the road.

Once winter driving conditions have given way to spring, however, it’s important to switch back to normal tires in lieu of continuing to use tires with metal studs. In most places, law enforcement will cite drivers who do not do this, as studs damage dry pavement.

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How not to drive on ice


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