AAA offers tips for icy driving

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 8, 2015

With the impeding icy weather, AAA Alabama encourages drivers to be cautious during the possibility of ice and snow covered roads this winter.

In a release from AAA, officials warn of the upcoming icy road conditions across Alabama, and offer suggestions on how drivers should be prepared to adjust their driving behavior.

“Severe weather can be both frightening and dangerous for automobile travel,” the release said. “Motorists should know the safety rules for dealing with winter road emergencies. AAA reminds motorists to be cautious and slow down while driving in adverse weather.”

To minimize the dangers associated with winter driving, AAA Alabama recommends the following winter driving tips and techniques:

• before getting under way, make sure you can see and be seen by others. Clean all snow and ice from the vehicle, including the hood, roof, trunk, lights and windows. Snow/ice left on any of these areas increases the possibility that visibility will be affected when the vehicle is in motion;

• try to avoid driving when visibility is poor; if you must drive, keep your speed low, headlights on low beam and if needed pull off to a safe spot as soon as possible;

• when following other vehicles, increase the margin of safety needed if you have to stop suddenly.

Normal following distances for dry pavement (two to three seconds) should be increased to eight to 10 seconds when driving on icy, slippery surfaces;

• practice smooth, careful, precise movements of the steering wheel when driving on snowy and icy surfaces. Skidding in which the front or rear move laterally is caused by hard acceleration or braking, speeds to fast for conditions, and quick jerky movements of the steering wheel. 4×4 vehicles can lose traction as easily as 2-wheel drive vehicles;

• stopping on slippery surfaces requires longer visibility, following and stopping distances. The heavier the vehicle then longer it will take to stop. The stopping distance required on ice at 0 degrees Fahrenheit is twice the amount required at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Shaded spots, bridges, overpasses and intersections are areas where ice is likely to form first or be the most slippery, because the shiny ice surface has either been polished by previous traffic, or a thin layer of water covers the melting ice below;

• in a skid, it’s important to regain control of your vehicle, especially if it skids sideways. Don’t panic. Decelerate by easing your foot off the gas if the wheels lose traction due to hard acceleration. Take your foot off the brake if the wheels skid due to hard or panic braking. As you’re the wheels begin to grip the road, look in the direction you want your vehicle to go and gently steer in the direction you want the vehicle to go; and,

• prepare in case of a breakdown or other emergency. Things like blankets, gloves, bottled water, snacks, extra coats, a tool kit, first aid kit, battery cables, a flashlight, and most importantly a cell phone can be very helpful in an emergency.  Few people plan to be stranded on the side of the road, but it’s always a good idea to have these things with you, just in case.