How to drive on icy roads
As one of the leading corporate vehicle rental providers in the UK, here at Fourways Vehicle Solutions we always want to ensure our customers are safe whilst driving.
One of the most popular blog posts we’ve written has been “What to do if your car aquaplanes”, so this month we wanted to continue this trend and explain how to drive on icy roads.
Black ice and aquaplaning are two of the worst occurrences that British drivers have to contend with, yet despite Met office warnings, many people take to the roads regardless of the conditions outside.
But do people really know how to deal with black ice, or even how to prepare for a journey?
Before you leave
Clear the windows and screens – Before you start your journey, make sure that you’ve cleared all the windows, the front windscreen and also the back from icy and snow.
The most common tools for this task are de-icer and a scraper, most can be bought from any automotive retailer, and can easily be stored in the car for later use.
Making sure that your car is in the right condition before any journey is crucial to staying safe, especially in adverse conditions. These checks include:
- Filling up screen wash, preferably with an anti-freeze additive
- Checking engine coolant levels
- Checking and topping up engine oil levels
- Headlamps and hazard light bulbs
- Windscreen wipers (only check when there’s no ice on the screen)
This may seem obvious, but you should check your tyres before taking any journey in icy conditions. The AA recommend that you should have a minimum of 3mm of tread on all the tyres of your vehicle.
There is a common myth that reducing the pressure in your tyres will increase traction and keep you safe. This isn’t true, and should you do so, you will be putting yourself and others at risk.
Fleet tyres should always be kept at the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended levels, but you could invest in all-season tyres if still unsure.
The RAC have put together a ‘Winter Driving Tips‘ for help when driving in Icy conditions.
Pack an emergency kit
We know you aren’t undertaking an expedition to the North Pole, but packing a basic emergency kit before setting out on your journey can keep you safe should anything happen. You can’t predict the weather, and if conditions do get worse, you do not want to be stuck for hours with no warmth or light.
As a minimum, each vehicle in your fleet should have an emergency kit consisting of:
- Non-perishable food, such as chocolate
- Bottled water
- Additional warm clothing, or a blanket
- A torch with spare batteries
- A shovel
- An ice scraper or de-icing fluid
- A first aid kit
During the journey
Remember your lights
Most modern vehicles – especially those within larger fleets – have automatic headlights as standard. However, the interior dashboard of most cars will light up even when headlamps aren’t on.
If in doubt, then disengage the automatic setting and turn the headlights on manually.
Unless visibility is at a minimum, you shouldn’t need to use your fog lights. Under most circumstances, dipped beams are all you’ll need; anything more will dazzle other drivers.
Keep your distance, and slow down
Just as you would during periods of torrential rain, keep your speed to a minimum. This allows you to maintain control over your vehicle, and gives you more time to react should anything occur.
When it comes to driving in icy conditions, tyres have substantially less grip compared to during the summer. This can mean that the distance between braking and stopping is 10 times greater compared to dry road conditions.
Watch out for other road users
Accidents that happen on icy roads can occur because you have lost control of the vehicle, but don’t forget that there are other drivers on the road too. Keep an eye out for any vehicle that looks to be drifting or sliding, and keep your distance.
What to do when you hit black ice
The best piece of advice we can give any driver who does hit black ice is to remain calm. It will be hard, especially if your vehicle feels like it’s careering out of control, but you need to.
Black ice is caused when moisture frozen on the ground is perfectly clear, and has no air bubbles or swirls, so cannot be seen until it’s too late. Our top tips for when you encounter black ice are:
- Do not use your brakes, under any circumstances. Just keep your steering wheel steady.
- De-accelerate by lifting your foot off the accelerator, just as you would when aquaplaning.
- Keep the steering wheel in the same position.
- If possible, switch down to a lower gear. This gives you more control.
- Should you start skidding, remain calm.
- If you have ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), apply firm pressure to the brakes. The vehicle will pump the brakes as you skid.
- If you don’t have ABS, then pump the brakes gently.
- If you are skidding, then gently move the steering wheel in the direction you wish to go in.
So there we have it, our advice on how to drive on icy roads. What do you think? How do you cope when it comes to driving in adverse weather conditions?
Fourways Vehicle Solutions are leading providers of commercial vehicle rental in the UK. We have a range of vehicles available, and should you need to speak to a member of the team, you can find our contact details here.