Learning how to drive on ice, especially in the snowfall season in the UK, is the most asked query on the internet when it comes to drivers driving in such harsh weather conditions. You might think it’d be fun to move and glide across the ice at speed but, it’s not fun when you are driving on a slippery surface, especially on black ice, as one can quickly lose the grip and risk a fatal accident.
Driving in snow or ice is similar at some point as in both situations, a driver needs to avoid any sudden accelerations and pursue a calm and slow ride to maintain the grip on the road. However, there are some additional precautions you will need to consider while learning how to drive on ice.
One of the efficient ways to spot the difference between snow and ice is that snow is easy to see. In contrast, ice (Black ice in particular) is transparent and invisible on the road. To consider an essential precaution is to use your vehicle’s thermometer as a guide. If it indicates the air’s temperature near a freezing point, you are already inside the icy zone. Also, know about the intelligent mapping service planned to create safer roads.
Another possible way of finding whether or not to be extra careful is to watch other vehicles either sliding or veering off the road while driving under the speed limit.
We suggest you consider hitting the road unless and until it’s crucially important. Else, we advise you to stay updated on the weather forecast about the potential danger zones and think about whether the journey is worth the health and wealth cost of an unfortunate accident. You can consult further information on snow and ice weather warning information and advice.
How to Drive on Ice?
Before learning how to drive on ice, let’s know about the most dangerous ice there is. The constant melting and refreezing of snow on the road’s surface can be called the “Black Ice”. However, the fact that makes it more dangerous is that it forms without air bubbles. The black ice can blend in any solid surface it materialises on. That’s why it’s always hard to detect before slipping on it.
Where to Expect Black Ice?
As it forms just near the freezing point, such as in bleak conditions on a highway, you can suspect black ice where the heat of the tires on the road & the cool temperature combines rapidly with other vehicles / HGVs on the road.
When to Expect Black Ice?
There’s always a fair chance of spotting black ice anytime in winter, but mostly it’s possible to form after dark or in the early morning when the temperature is at its lowest.
Practice, Practice & Practice
To diminish the chances of getting into a potential accident, find a nice big empty area, i.e., a parking lot and practice your driving skills on an icy surface with a seasoned winter driver. So, understand how your vehicle / HGV handles in such conditions and practise the braking mechanism (ABS braking if available) as much as possible.
Encountering the Black Ice
While learning how to drive on ice, Driving moderately is the key here. If you do encounter black ice, your priority must be to remain calm. Generally, you shouldn’t do anything and let the vehicle / HGV pass over on its own. ‘Do Not’ hit brakes while in the zone, and try to keep the steering wheels straight as possible.
If you feel a sudden left and right slip in the back end, try to steer the wheels gently towards that direction to keep in control. Avoid driving in the opposite direction as it will increase the chance of skidding or spinning the vehicle.
Slowly try to de-accelerate and slow down your vehicle / HGV: this will give you more control and prevent any consequential damages. Lift your feet off the accelerator and keep the steering wheels fixed in the position towards the road.
The idea here is to slide over the black ice (which is usually 6 meters / 20 feet) and keep up in the direction your steering wheel is facing. Do not hit the brakes, as doing so will increase the risk of skidding the vehicle.
Tip: Lower your gears if possible, as it will reduce the damage exponentially and give you more control.
Find the Traction
We know that black ice is naturally invisible, but a driver should always find the pavement area that offers textured ice, snow-covered surface, etc.
What if you lose Traction?
In the case you lose traction, stay calm and try not to overreact. If you are driving under the speed limit, you’ll make it out quickly. If not, you should try the following.
- If your vehicle / HGV uses an anti-lock braking system (ABS), foot the brake and apply the pressure firmly. The vehicle will get slow and stop eventually.
- If the ABS is not available, power the brakes gently as the vehicle / HGV begins to skid.
- Always keep the position of the steering wheels in the direction you want to go.
What if you skid off the road?
If you are unable to keep the position of your vehicle towards the road, always try to steer into an empty field, yard or anything that’ll reduce the damage of braking your vehicle. Even though there are fewer chances at times, it’s worth a try.
Get yourself away from the road.
Precautions after getting away from your driver’s seat are also much crucial to learning how to drive on ice. After landing your vehicle safely without any damage, get away from the vehicle / HGV and road as soon as possible. (especially stay away from the upcoming vehicle / HGVs as they might skid directly into you) Find a restroom or stop until the road crew arrives to deem the road salt or sand rather than dealing with the accident.
Tips to Summerise
- Stay updated on the ambient temperature to be prepared for such icy conditions.
- Keep a keen eye on nearest passing vehicles to see if they are sliding or skidding off the road.
- Listen to the weather forecasts and try your best to avoid the potential areas.
- Drive slowly and calmly.
- Maximise the distance between you and the vehicles / HGVs in front of you.
- If your vehicle starts skidding, steer towards the road direction while pressing gently on the brakes.