Driving In Icy Conditions

Winter driving brings plenty of challenges, but perhaps the most difficult to deal with is driving on ice. If freezing rain is in the forecast, your best bet is to park and wait for the roads to clear. When you are out in these conditions, we want you to park and call in. You should NEVER drive when there is a high probability for ice or ice is present.

Understanding Black Ice

Contrary to its name, black ice isn’t actually black. It forms when a thin layer of ice contains very few air bubbles, making it completely transparent. Because the ice is transparent, it takes on whatever color is under it. In the case of a road, it looks black like the asphalt and is nearly impossible to see and treacherous to drive on. 

Because black ice is practically invisible, it’s very dangerous on the road. Black ice tends to form in the evening and the morning. If you see a patch of roadway ahead of you that looks shiny while the rest of the road looks dull, it could be black ice.  Oftentimes, if you have not already taken the necessary safety precautions, it is already too late by the time you see it.  So, what precautions should a driver take when ice may be present?   

Slow Down

If temperatures are around freezing, you know there’s a chance for ice. Therefore, you should always reduce your speed. If you’re slide, even a little, chances are you’re driving too fast for the conditions. If you find yourself driving on black ice, take your foot off the accelerator and don’t hit the brakes or make any sudden movements with your steering wheel.  The idea is to keep the steering wheel straight and let the truck and trailer travel over the ice. Black ice is usually patchy, so you’ll likely hit clear pavement in just a few feet.

Steer Into the Slide

If you’re on ice and feel the truck or trailer starting to slide, use the steering wheel to gently turn the same direction of the slide. It also helps to focus your eyes on where you want the vehicle to go and point the steering wheel in that direction. If you try to steer against the slide, you could end up overcorrecting and jackknife.

Use Caution Approaching Bridges and Overpasses

You will likely see the signs warning you about ice forming on the bridge first, and if you are driving when it is at or below freezing, you need to take those warnings seriously. Bridges and overpasses have air on all sides and no way to trap heat, which makes them more susceptible to freezing quicker than the surface of the road build on the ground.  If you’re approaching a bridge or overpass and it looks wet, that might actually be ice on the surface.

Give Yourself More Following Distance

When roads are dry, driving experts recommend leaving three to four seconds between you and the vehicle in front of you. However, when you’re driving in snowy and icy conditions, you should increase your following distance to eight to 10 seconds. This increase will give you the longer distance you need to come to a safe stop.

The next time you encounter winter driving conditions, remember to take caution when you see a road surface that appears wet, slow down, increase following distance, steer in the direction of the slide, and be careful around bridges and overpasses.

If you want any additional information regarding driving safety tips, please contact our Safety Department at 800-497-2100.