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How To Drive in Icy Conditions

The best way to deal with icy roads is to stay off them. But if you must brave the drive, here’s what you need to know.


  • Step 1: As soon as you see a corner or a turn ahead, begin braking. Do not brake or accelerate during the turn itself. When the turn is complete, accelerate smoothly.
  • TIP: Use extreme caution on bridges, overpasses, tunnels, and shaded areas; they tend to freeze up first.
  • Step 2: Aggressive steering can easily send your car into a spin, so avoid jerking the wheel.
  • Step 3: Know the rules of skid recovery. If the car is turning unintentionally, steer into the skid—if the rear of your car begins fishtailing to left, steer left. If you car refuses to turn, steer away from the desired turn.
  • FACT: It can take as much as nine times the distance to stop on slippery pavement as on a dry surface.
  • Step 4: Keep your eyes on the road. This is always important, but it’s absolutely essential when driving on ice, because a sudden stop could send you into a skid. Stay off the cell phone and don’t fiddle with the radio.
  • Step 5: Know if your car has an anti-lock braking system, ABS for short. If it does, apply slow, steady pressure to brakes when stopping on ice. If it doesn’t, pump the brakes. Don't slam on the brakes under any circumstances –you risk losing control of the vehicle.
  • TIP: Check your state's transportation department web site for detailed snow-driving regulations.
  • Step 6: If snow chains or cables are required in your area, install them as soon as you encounter snowy or icy conditions. Don't drive on bare pavement with them installed, and don't exceed 25 miles per hour once they are on your tires.
  • Step 7: The most important thing you can do to stay safe on ice is to slow down. And don’t think four-wheel drive will save you; it provides absolutely no benefit when it comes to braking on a sheet of ice.
  • Step 8: For every 10 miles per hour you’re traveling, keep at least four car lengths between you and the car in front of you.
  • TIP: The Automobile Association of America recommends that drivers practice slow-speed maneuvers in an empty ice- or snow-covered parking lot to familiarize themselves with how their vehicles react to those conditions.
  • Step 9: Use an ice scraper to clear your windows and mirrors.

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