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December 01, 2018 @ 12:00am

Expect the unexpected this winterAs the snow starts falling and temperatures drop, some hazards on the road will be easy to spot, like accumulating snow. But other hazards aren’t so obvious, like black ice. What should you do if you encounter bad road conditions, or if you’re surprised by ice? It’s time to brush up on some driver’s safety and make sure your driving skills are winter-ready.

One important thing to keep in mind is that ice can form on roads in temperatures as high as 36 degrees: That’s right, ice can form even when it’s not freezing outside. Elevated roads, such as bridges or overpasses, aren’t insulated by earth, and freeze faster. But the biggest contributing factor to dangerous winter conditions is precipitation of any kind. Not only does freezing rain and snow cause the ambient temperature to drop, making ice more likely, accumulating snow and ice can turn a road into a hazard in just a few minutes.

If you encounter obviously bad driving conditions like accumulating snow or ice, slow down, but go easy on your brakes. Often, simply taking your foot off the accelerator until you reach a safe speed is your best option, because sudden corrections with your brakes can cause you to lose control of your car. If hazardous driving has been forecast and you must drive, try to stick to main roads, where plows and other drivers can keep the roads clear.

Most accidents, however, happen with minimal snow or ice on the road. When bad driving conditions surprise you, if you find yourself losing control of your vehicle, it can be terrifying. The first, and most important rule is to reduce your speed, even if road conditions appear okay. Skids and fishtails happen, and the faster you’re going, the harder it is to regain control of your car. Also, go gently on your pedals, as aggressive braking and acceleration are sure fire ways to lose control.

If you find yourself skidding or fishtailing, the first thing you should do is take your feet off the pedals: Don’t accelerate and don’t brake. Remember to steer with the skid. Another way to think of it is to steer in the direction the back of your car is going. Though your adrenaline will certainly be flowing, try to make smaller adjustments rather than rapidly steering to avoid over-correcting.

Finally, make it a habit to check the weather before you head out on the roads, and plan on extra time between destinations. A little bit of planning can go a long way toward keeping your family safe this winter.

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