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Driving In Snow And Icy Conditions

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Driving In Snow And Icy Conditions

Sally Driver
December 29, 2012


Driving In Snow and Ice Conditions

When you are driving in icy conditions, your tyres will have very little grip. Driving when the road is icy, or snowing is particularly dangerous, so in some circumstances it is best to stay at home unless your journey is absolutely essential.

If you must use your vehicle, there are several safety considerations to be aware of.

You must be able to see through the whole of your windscreen, otherwise you will not be able to fully see the road ahead. This may involve de-icing. Make sure that your lights are clean, and your number plate is clearly visible. Make sure that you can see clearly out of your mirrors. For the inside mirrors, this may involve de-misting the car

Most modern cars that are less than five years old will have ice warning lights and a temperature gauge located somewhere on the dashboard. Make certain that you know where they are before you need them. If the temperature gauge is measuring lower than 3ºC then brace yourself for an icy journey.

Drive carefully and keep at least a four second gap to the vehicle in front. Be aware that the condition of the road can change very quickly, particularly if you encounter a section of road that has not yet been gritted. Sudden movements can cause your vehicle to skid. When you need to accelerate or brake, do so gradually (rather than in one sharp action).

When approaching a bend, slow down gradually before you take the bend to limit the chances of skidding. Once you have set off, keep alert to any warnings that you can pick up on during your journey. For example, keep an eye out for salt spreading machines and snow ploughs. They are usually pretty easy to spot; flashing amber warning lights and driving at a speed of between 30 and 40 miles per hour.

If you spot one, try to keep as far away as possible and do not attempt to overtake - there's no point trying to get past a snow plough as it is clearing the way for those vehicles behind it. Gritting machines can also scratch the bodywork of cars close by them as they send grit out onto the road in as far a range as possible.

If you find that your wheels seem unusually quiet on the road, this is usually a sign that your tyres are driving on ice so take extra care and reduce your speed. Stopping distances can be up to ten times longer in heavy snow conditions, so avoid any risky manoeuvres.


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