Staying Safe on Wintry Roads
Noble McIntyre on November 18, 2014
If you’re like most Oklahomans, you awoke to the news this morning that we’ve had our first blast of wintry weather for this season. That means that you’re scrambling your schedules because schools are closed, modifying your work commute and, hopefully, allowing extra time to get to your destinations today. There are always a few extra fender-benders that come with the first storm because people forget some of the basics about driving in wintry weather. Here are a few reminders so that you can stay safe on the roads, and keep the roads safe for other motorists:
- Drive slowly. Leave yourself plenty of room to stop. When the roads are wet or icy, you should leave at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
- Know whether or not your vehicle has anti-lock brakes. Most cars have four-wheel ABS, which means that you should put firm and continuous pressure on the brake while steering. Don’t pump the brakes, even if the brake pedal is pulsing.
- If your car has rear-wheel ABS, you should stomp on the brake, but ease up with just enough pressure to allow the front wheels to roll again, which allows you to steer properly.
- If your vehicle does not have ABS, you should pump the brakes in order to avoid a skid.
- If your front wheels begin to skid, take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don’t try to steer right away. When the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and you will begin to regain traction. When that happens, steer in the direction you want to move. Put the transmission in “drive” or release the clutch while you accelerate gently.
- Stay in a low gear for increased traction, especially on a slope or hill. Avoid using cruise control or overdrive.
- Bridges, overpasses or less-traveled roads will freeze first. Even if the temperature is above freezing, you could find ice in shady spots or on exposed roadways like bridges if there is wetness on the road.
- Don’t try to pass a snow plow or sand truck. The road ahead of those vehicles will be worse than where you are, and the drivers have limited visibility and might not see you coming.
If you get stuck:
- Don’t spin your wheels. That will only make it worse!
- Wiggle your wheels from side to side to push snow out of the way.
- If you have a shovel, clear snow away from the wheels and undercarriage of the car. If you don’t have a shovel, use your feet or any other tool you can find.
- Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels to get traction. [note that a shovel and a bag of sand, kitty litter or gravel are important items to keep in your vehicle in the winter for this very reason]
- Rock the vehicle if you can. Shift forward to reverse and back; when you get in gear, give a little touch on the gas until the vehicle begins to move.
Be sure to check out our tips for what to keep in your car during the winter season, along with resources for wintry weather including links to the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety’s road condition map and other local snow routes.
The most important thing in icy or any road conditions is to be patient, remain calm and take your time. Being on time is not as important as being safe! Stay warm and be careful out there!