No matter where you live, you probably suffer from the same seasonal amnesia as the rest of the country. You’ve been enjoying Indiana’s mild summer and beautifully temperate fall and have forgotten what’s just around the corner. That’s why many drivers fail to safely handle the very first snowfall or icy morning of the winter. We have all forgotten how to drive safely in snow and ice. As these are some of the most dangerous conditions we face on the highways, we offer a reminder of how to drive safely in an Indiana winter.
Black Ice: The Invisible Threat
Many of us talk about watching out for black ice, but how do you avoid something that is invisible? Black ice forms when the temperature just above the road surface is 32 degrees F or lower and it is raining. As the rain hits the road surface, it freezes. This thin layer of ice is actually translucent—not black—but it blends with its surroundings, making it difficult to spot. To assess the potential for black ice, you can start by being aware of the air temperature. If it is damp and below 32 degrees, there could be ice on the surface of the road. You should also take a few minutes to walk around your driveway and the road in front of your house. If you are slipping on ice, there is likely to be ice along your route. Black ice is most common in the early morning and late evening hours, when temperatures are at their lowest, and in areas that do not get direct sunlight. Your safest course of action is to avoid driving when there are icy conditions, but if you must drive, follow these tips:
- When the conditions are right, assume the road is icy and drive accordingly.
- Do not hit the brakes on icy patches; instead, hold the steering wheel steady.
- Lift your foot off the accelerator. Just like braking, accelerating can cause your wheels to lose traction.
- Do not overcorrect your steering if you feel your car sliding.
Remember that bridges and overpasses will freeze before road surfaces because they are getting a blast of cold air from above and below. Do not brake, accelerate, or turn sharply on bridges and overpasses.
Driving in the Snow
Snowy conditions create multiple hazards for drivers. Obviously, you should never head out in a blizzard as you will experience zero visibility and impassable roads. However, even a light snowfall can kick up a squall without warning and produce whiteout conditions that can lead to massive highway pileups. Snow often accumulates on highways in patches where there is little sun or it has blown off a field. Drivers should be prepared for these areas by driving cautiously on areas that are not snow-covered. The American Automobile Association (AAA) offers these tips for driving in snowy conditions:
- Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids.
- Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads, including accelerating, stopping, and turning. Following distances should be increased to eight to ten seconds.
- Know your brakes. If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS) and need to slow down quickly, press hard on the pedal. In cars without ABS, keep your heel on the floorboard and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
- Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on a slippery road. Get some speed going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.
- Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can.
AAA also recommends keeping your gas tank at least half full all winter and storing blankets, water, nonperishable snacks, and a cell phone charger in your car until spring.
The Biggest Threat Is Other Drivers
Despite taking all of these precautions, you could still be the victim of another driver’s lack of preparation for winter conditions. If you are hit by a reckless driver in Indiana this winter, contact the car accident attorneys at Keller & Keller. We represent victims of car crashes as they take on insurance companies for a fair settlement. We have offices in Indianapolis, Terre Haute, and Granger to serve you.