How to: Drive Safe on Snow and Ice
AAA Colorado fielded 1,000 calls for roadside assistance this morning
DENVER (Nov. 12, 2018) – As the first sizable snowstorm of the season passes over the Front Range, motorists should be forewarned: While the snow has stopped falling, snow-covered and icy roads will present significant challenges during the evening and tomorrow morning's commute. During this morning's drive time, for example, AAA Colorado fielded more than 1,000 requests for emergency roadside assistance -- a 200 percent increase above initial projections.
Dead batteries and sliding and crashes resulting from treadless and under-inflated tires represented the majority of calls. To avoid losing control of their vehicle, motorists should ensure their tires are set to the pressures listed on the driver's door or door frame. Tires begin to lose their resistance to hydroplaning with as much as as 4/32" of tread remaining. Any less than that and motorists are at a significant risk of losing traction.
Hazardous storms and inclement weather are a factor in half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter, according to research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. AAA urges drivers to slow down, be cautious, and prepare for worst-case conditions.
"It doesn't matter what kind of car you drive. Snow and ice pose significant risks to every single motorist," said AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley. "Budget extra time, take it slow, and keep a vigilant eye on traffic conditions in front of you. You're not invincible, and watch out for the driver who thinks that he or she is."
AAA is encouraging drivers to be prepared and offers the below tips.
AAA Safe-Driving Tips for Slick or Icy Roadways
- Slow down: Accelerate, turn, and brake gradually. Adjust your speed to the road conditions and leave yourself ample room to stop. Allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
- Don't tailgate: Normal following distances of three to four seconds on dry pavement should be extended to a minimum of eight to ten seconds when driving on slippery surfaces. The extra time will provide additional braking room should a sudden stop become necessary.
- Watch the traffic ahead: Slow down immediately at the sight of brake lights, fishtailing cars, sideways skids, or emergency flashers ahead.
- Avoid unnecessarily changing lanes: This increases the chance of hitting a patch of ice between lanes that could cause loss of vehicle control.
- Use extreme caution on bridges and overpasses: Black ice typically forms first in shaded areas of the roadway and on bridges and overpasses that freeze first and melt last. Although the road leading up to a bridge may be fine, the bridge itself could be a sheet of ice.
- Move over: Move over one lane for law enforcement and emergency roadside assistance personnel assisting motorists. It's the law. If you can't move over, slow down.
- Don't power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down hill as slowly as possible.
- Don't stop going up a hill. There's nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road.
- Carry a winter weather kit in your car: Contents should include a fully charged cell phone (and a car charger), ice scraper, blanket, warm winter clothing, flashlight with extra batteries, jumper cables, a bag of kitty litter, reflective triangles/flares, shovel, and cloth/paper towels.
AAA Tips for Braking on Ice
- Minimize the need to brake on ice: If you're approaching a stop sign, traffic light or other area where ice often forms, brake early on clear pavement to reduce speed. Maintaining control of your vehicle is much more difficult when braking on ice-covered roadways.
- Control the skid: In the event of a skid, ease off the accelerator and steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go.
- If your car has an anti-lock braking system (ABS): Do not remove your foot from the brake during a skid. When you apply the brakes hard enough to make the wheels lock momentarily, you will typically feel the brake pedal vibrate and pulsate back against your foot. This is normal and the system is working as designed. Do not release pressure on the pedal or attempt to "pump" the brakes.
- If your car does not have an anti-lock braking system: Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to modulate the pressure applied to the brake pedal so the brakes are at the "threshold" of lockup but still rotating.
AAA Tips when Icing Conditions Affect Vehicles
- Ice-coated windshield/windows: NEVER pour hot water on windshield or windows. This can cause the glass to break. Use vehicle defrosters to melt ice for easier removal. Don't use windshield wipers to remove ice – this will damage the blades.
- Frozen windows: Do not continue to push the power window buttons if the window is frozen. It can damage the mechanics inside the door and can also cause the window to break.
- Frozen locks: Never use water to thaw frozen locks. Instead use commercial deicing products or heat the key and lock with a hair dryer. A lighter can also be used to heat the key.
- Frozen windshield wipers: If windshield wipers are frozen to the windshield, use the heater and defroster to melt the ice before turning the windshield wipers on. When you arrive at your destination, remember to pull the windshield wipers away from the windshield to prevent refreezing.
About AAA Colorado
More than 685,000 members strong, AAA Colorado is the state's most-trusted advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 58 million members with travel, insurance, financial, and automotive-related services - as well as member-exclusive savings. For more information, visit AAA.com.