Driving on ice can be among the more dangerous situations you might face as a driver. Find out how to drive safely in poor conditions with our top tips for driving on ice.
- Beware of black ice under trees and around bridges
- Keep an eye on the thermometer - below 4°C could mean slippery surfaces
- Travel slowly and don’t brake, turn or accelerate harshly in icy conditions
Plummeting temperatures and wintry conditions can lead to dangerous and icy roads. Though ice can present a challenge to drivers, with the right precautions and preparations, you can still make your journeys comfortably and safely.
Being aware of icy conditions and knowing what to do if you begin to skid is a good start. Here are our top tips for driving on ice below.
What to do if you start to skid on ice
- Don’t hit the brakes. You might be inclined to try to stop the car, but braking makes skidding worse.
- Turn into the skid. Turn the wheel in the direction you are skidding in, this will straighten the vehicle.
- Don’t accelerate. It goes without saying that you do not want to increase your speed while skidding.
- Don’t panic. Remaining calm will help you to handle the situation safely.
As well as knowing how to handle your vehicle if you start to skid, there are other precautions you can take that limit the chance of skidding.
- Having the correct tyre pressure and tread depth will maximise your tyres’ ability to maintain their road grip.
- Ease off the accelerator and brakes if you start to aquaplane. Allowing the car to slow naturally will help the tyres grip the road.
- Travel slower than the speed limit. Speed limits are the maximum in ideal conditions, not for ice.
- Avoid harsh steering, accelerating and braking.
- Give yourself plenty of time at bends and corners.
What to do if your car starts losing grip
“Many modern cars have technology that will save you from skidding,” says Tim Shalcross, head of technical policy at IAM RoadSmart (@IAMRoadSmart).
“If you see a little amber light flashing on the dash, it's telling you that the car's electronics have saved you from losing your grip, but you're driving too fast for the conditions. Slow down and double your distance between you and another vehicle. Treat the throttle pedal as if it's mounted on a wine glass stem and will break easily.”
Though ice can present a challenge to drivers, with the right precautions and preparations, you can still make your journeys comfortably and safely.
How to identify signs of ice on the road
In wintry conditions, when it is naturally darker, it can be hard to spot ice. However, there are several things you should look out for to help you prepare for driving on ice.
Road ice doesn’t always occur uniformly, so may not be obvious to the naked eye and it might not cover the whole road. Black ice is more likely in covered parts of the road, such as under trees or bridges.
Leaves covering the road can also prevent ice from thawing, so be aware when driving along areas with lots of fallen leaves. Typically, if the temperature has dropped under 4°C, you should prepare for slippery conditions.
Driving safely on icy roads
It's good to know how to get your car ready for winter roads and how to overcome any winter driving worries you may have.
Before you set off on your journey, use an ice scraper to remove any ice and frost from your windows, mirrors, headlights and registration plate. You need to be able to see clearly out of all your car windows and in your side mirrors.
When driving on ice, you can stay safe by:
- Driving slowly and with extra care.
- Keeping a good distance between yourself and the vehicle in front.
- Leaving plenty of room when overtaking vehicles, especially large grit spreaders.
Using a higher gear if possible and brake slowly and within plenty of time.
What to do if you have an accident on wintry roads
Should you have on accident on wintry roads, the best thing you can do is remain calm.
You should call the emergency services right away, if they are necessary and ensure all those involved are safe and well.
If you get stranded, it’s best to remain with your vehicle and call the emergency services to let them know of your position. Put your hazard lights on and make sure that you and any passengers or pets are safely at the side of the road, away from traffic, and behind a barrier if possible.
What's the advice if your car breaks down in winter?
Icy conditions can lead to breakdowns and car damage. The most important thing you can do in preparation is to carry plenty of warm clothes and a blanket or two in your boot. It’s best to not keep your engine on to keep warm as you could run down the battery and it may be safer to leave your vehicle, depending on your situation. Instead, wrap up with blankets and extra coats.
You should also carry a spare phone charger, reflective vest and a pop-up reflective cone, as these can come in handy during the darker hours.
Even though there's plenty you can do to prepare for winter driving, anyone can still be caught out by freak weather spells or bad conditions. If the weather is bad, only drive if necessary - and, if you must, make sure you're armed with all the knowledge (and layers!) you need to cope.
Be prepared for driving on ice and in difficult wintry conditions with car insurance from LV=.
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