Driving on Ice Tips: How Not to Skid on Icy Roads

Worried about driving on ice this winter? We get it. Maneuvering your vehicle along a slippery snow-covered street can be scary, but it’s definitely doable. When the temperatures drop and forecast calls for cold weather, keep these tips in mind before you venture out onto the road.

Only Drive If You’re Comfortable

It doesn’t matter if you just got your driver license or if you’ve been driving for 40 years -- driving on ice and snow can be nerve wracking for anyone. Even if you have four-wheel drive or a traction control system, driving on an icy road can be dangerous. If you don’t feel comfortable driving due to adverse weather -- don’t! Your school or place of employment may allow you to stay home if you feel that the road surface is unsafe. If you’re a new driver, you may want to skip sitting behind the wheel when there’s snow and ice on the street and let a parent drive instead.

Don't drive on an icy road if you're not comfortable doing so.  Eh, maybe not.

Know That You Can’t Always See Ice

The most dangerous type of road ice is called black ice, which, contrary to its name, is invisible to the naked eye. While you can’t usually spot it, know that black ice typically forms at night or very early in the morning when it's coldest outside, so you should be wary when traveling during those times. Black ice often appears in shaded areas where the sun can’t melt it or on overpasses and bridges. Ever seen a traffic sign that says “Bridge Ices Before Road?” It's there for a reason! In the winter, it’s a good idea to always check the local weather condition and see if there is bad weather before you drive anywhere.

Black ice is the most dangerous ice while driving. Watch out for the ice you CAN'T see.

Don’t Put On the Brakes!

When you’re being cautious on a slippery road, you may be tempted to put on the brake pedal. Doing so, however, can cause your car to skid. Instead, you should be prepared to drive a little under the speed limit or shift into a low gear (particularly if you’re going downhill.) If you do happen to start skidding, don’t panic and slam on the brakes. Instead, take your foot off the gas pedal and try to keep your car going in the same direction as it moves over the patch of ice. If your car really starts to skid out of control, you can try guiding it off the road to a place that will stop the movement of your vehicle, such as a snow bank. Doing so might force you to call a tow truck for assistance, but it’s better that your car is stopped and you are safe.

Stopping on a snow bank may be the best way to prevent yourself from crashing due to a skid. A snow bank could be your best friend.

Steer Into the Slide

You may have heard that you’re supposed to “steer into the skid” or “turn into the slide” if you start drifting on a patch of ice. Basically, this means that you should turn your steering wheel in the direction that your back wheels are moving. So if your rear wheel is sliding to the right, you should turn your steering wheel to the right. You want to be sure, however, that you don’t overcorrect for your car sliding, which can make the situation worse. Meaning, if your car has started to slide just slightly, you’ll want to turn your steering wheel just slightly. Once the car straightens out, you’ll want to stop steering into the slide.

Steering into the slide means that you turn your steering wheel in the same direction that your rear wheel is sliding. Turn into the slide, little buddy!

When in comes to driving in snow or ice, you may feel nervous at first, and that’s okay. As previously mentioned, the No. 1 tip for avoiding crashes due to ice and snow is to stay home! If you do have to drive in heavy snow or on black ice, however, keep these tips in mind so that you arrive at your destination safely. For more advice on what to do when there's ice on the road, visit our page on tips for driving in snow and winter weather.

Krista Doyle