Safety advice for driving on ice

As the winter brings in sub-zero temperatures, it can be a challenging time for driving on the road.

Ice forming on the roads is one of the main hazards you will face at this cold time of the year and being adequately prepared and changing your driving style to be appropriate for the conditions will help you stay safe.

Preparation tips

  • First thing to do is to consider if your journey is really that necessary or could you leave it until conditions are safer.
  • Before setting off, make sure to take a charged mobile phone with you and means to charge it if possible, water, snacks and a blanket (you might get stuck or stranded).
  • If you’re driving to meet another person, inform them of your planned route and when you expect to arrive at the destination.

Breaking distance

Breaking distance has the potential to increase tenfold in icy conditions, and for this reason you are advised to give the vehicle in front up to ten times the normal recommended distance.

Please remember that it doesn’t always have to be ‘icy’ for you to increase this gap, tyres will grip less efficiently in the cold so caution should always be taken in colder weather.

Black Ice

Black ice is what we call a thin layer of ice that is on the surface of the road but appears the same colour as the road because of how smooth and transparent it is.

In some occasions this ice can appear as glossy areas on the road surface, you might see it reflecting back sunlight and glinting or you might even see cars ahead that appear to be swerving to avoid what looks like nothing.

Though unfortunately, it is more likely that you won’t spot black ice at all and because of this you should take particularly more care when driving on shaded areas of road such as flyover, bridges and tunnels. Quieter stretches of road are also more likely to be affected.

If your unlucky and do hit a patch of black ice, firstly, do not panic, panicking never helps. Keep the wheel as straight as possible and maintain your speed DO NOT USE YOUR BRAKES!

If necessary, use your gears to slow down the vehicle but do so avoiding any abrupt movements that could cause the vehicle go out of control and skid.

Correcting a skid on ice

Getting in to a skid is never a nice situation but if you do encounter it, the best course of action is to steer gently in to it and do not takes your hands off wheel or brake hard or sharply.
For example if the rear of the car is sliding towards the left then steer to the left and vice versa.

Summary

  • Driving smoothly and with anticipations is key to driving on an icy road.
  • Look well ahead to spot potential hazards like patches of ice and keep your speed down.
  • Reduce risk of skidding by accelerating, braking and changing gear as smoothly as possible.
  • Using a higher gear can help give more grip and make it easier to find traction on packed ice.