Snowstorms and icy roads are a challenge that every resident must overcome to enjoy life in the White Mountains, but there are a few key tricks that even the most seasoned winter driver should know.
The Federal Highway Administration calculates that more than 150,000 vehicle crashes occur every year due to icy road conditions, resulting in 135,000 injuries and almost 2,000 fatalities. While general snowfall is a well-known culprit, black ice presents the biggest challenge for motorists during the winter.
The term “black ice” is a misnomer; it’s important to understand that “black ice” is just like any other slab of ice. The ice will be completely transparent, almost like a glaze over any roadway.
Of course, identifying ice is the first step. Ice tends to form in the early morning and evening when the sun isn’t high enough to help warm the road. It collects easily on bridges, overpasses and ramps and can be seen from the right angle in the correct lighting.
Most drivers won’t know they’re on black ice until it’s too late to prepare, so they only thing left to do is react accordingly.
They key is not to panic. When driving in a storm, drivers may notice vehicles around them swerving suddenly; this is a clear indication of black ice. If you suspect you’re about to drive over a slab of ice and have no way of avoiding it, the general rule is to do as little as possible and allow the car to pass over the ice.
Hitting the vehicle’s brakes may drastically deter the natural movement of the vehicle, so avoid braking and do your best to keep the steering wheel straight. Drivers may feel the back end of their vehicle slide slightly, but this can be managed by gently turning the steering wheel in the direction of the slide. The risk of spinning or skidding increases if motorists attempt to turn against the slide, so avoid any sudden movements.
Without using brakes, the only safe way to decelerate the vehicle to naturally slow down. When keeping the steering wheel straight, the process should be fairly simple. Identifying upcoming areas that will provide more traction, such as snow-covered areas (not ice-covered) or spots with sand or gravel, may help garner some vehicle control or allow for a safe, complete stop. For standard vehicles, lower gears will give drivers more control.
These should greatly reduce the risk of skidding or spinning off the road, but if you do begin to slide do your best to not brake excessively. Gently press the brakes to allow for more traction and try to aim for areas of the road that won’t damage the vehicle or its occupants.
When possible, get off the roadway as quickly as possible. The experience may be stressful, but drivers shouldn’t panic. After feeling comfortable enough to drive again, do so at a lower speed and with flashing lights. Focus on keeping the vehicle straight and keep safe distances from the other vehicles until safer road conditions are found.
Of course, the best thing drivers can do to prevent wrecks is to prepare. Researching road conditions before traveling is a good place to start. Drivers should do their best to keep up with regular vehicle maintenance (lights, fluids, etc.) and installing snow tires will help with tire adhesion and will improve stopping distance.
Frequent travelers are encouraged to carry a few safety items in the event of being stuck or stranded, like flashlights, blankets, ice scrapers and snow shovels, phone chargers and a first-aid kit.
Winter season automotive crashes will happen, but the effects they carry will drop dramatically with proper knowledge and preparation. Do your part to ensure all drivers can travel safely through the White Mountains and beyond.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.