Driving on icy roads
can be hazardous, particularly if
driving too fast. Not only can clear visibility be compromised, but stop-time
is reduced due to reaction times being longer. Understanding about how stopping distance on icy
roads is affected means appropriate driving for these potentially dangerous
There are various aspects to consider, such as reduced traction, black
ice, wet ice and the increased risk of skidding or hydroplaning.
Stopping distances may be doubled
on wet roads, on icy roads stopping distances are even greater!
Traction is the friction between the tyres and the road. With reduced traction it is
difficult to steer or brake. Slippery, bendy and icy roads
slower driving for this reason. If it is icy it is best to reduce speed to a
crawl and stop as soon as it is safe to do so, as the risk of losing control of
the vehicle is high.
However, it can be difficult to know if a road is slippery. Be cautious
when driving over shady parts of the road. These areas remain icy and slippery
for longer as they don't have as much exposure to the sun. Once icy roads start
to melt, they will become wet and consequently may be more treacherous than completely
frozen ice. This is because wet ice is a lot more slippery and, as a result,
the stopping distance is greater.
Wet and icy road conditions increase the probability of hydroplaning (the wheels lose traction and in effect
you are travelling on
top of the water). When this happens, steering and breaking become difficult. In
this situation do not apply the brakes. Take your foot off the accelerator (and
engage the clutch if a manual gearbox).
Winter car maintenance
of your tyres and ensuring they are inflated to correct
manufacturer specified pressures reduces the risk of hydroplaning.
A simple way to find out if the road may be icy is to open the car window
and feel the front of the wing mirror. Ice forming in this region would indicate
the likelihood that the road will be icing up.
Take particular care when crossing bridges, as these may ice up before normal
roads. This tends to be because they are more exposed. While the roads may not
be icy, the bridge you are travelling over could well be frozen!