Need-to-know driving tips on icy roads

INDIANAPOLIS -- For those of you who HAVE to drive today, here's how you should operate on the roads to stay safe and out of an accident:

  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly
  • Drive slowly
  • Increase distance between vehicles to eight to 10 seconds
  • The best way to stop is a technique called threshold braking: Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal
  • Try to avoid stopping in full
  • Don't power-up hills by accelerating as you try to climb them
  • Don't stop going up a hill
  • Above all, if it's too dangerous, try to stay home
  • If you hear slush, then you likely have traction, but if you don't hear anything, you're likely on ice: Slow down.
  • If you find yourself driving on ice, press and hold the brake pedal if you have anti-lock brakes. If you do not have anti-lock brakes, pump the brake pedal until you gradually come to a stop.

Consult maps and call ahead to your destination for road conditions. Be sure to have handy the list of road-condition hotlines and even program them in your cell phone if you have one.

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If your car starts to skid, The National Safety Council and INDOT say:

Rear-wheel skid

  • Take your foot off the accelerator
  • Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they're sliding right, steer right
  • If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control 
  • If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.
  • If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse — this is normal

Front-wheel skid

  • Take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don't try to steer immediately
  • As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return
  • As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in "drive" or release the clutch, and accelerate gently
  • Do not spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper
  • Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way
  • Use a light touch on the gas to ease your car out
  • Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car
  • Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels, to help get traction
  • Try rocking the vehicle. (Check your owner's manual first — it can damage the transmission on some vehicles.) Shift from forward to reverse, and back again. Each time you're in gear, give a light touch on the gas until the vehicle gets going

If you are in an accident or run off the road, do not leave your car unless you know exactly where you are, how far it is to possible help, and are certain you will improve your situation.

If you are sure the car's exhaust pipe is not blocked, run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour or so depending upon the amount of gas in the tank.

Keep at least one window open slightly. Heavy snow and ice can seal a car shut.

 

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