How to Handle Driving on Black Ice

Winter Driving - Black Ice
Lisa Williams, Flickr

Driving in winter conditions is just like driving in the summer. Well, with the exception of the possibility that you could hit ice and lose control of your vehicle. Oh, and steering and breaking are done differently in inclement weather. Come to think of it, driving in winter conditions is absolutely nothing like driving in the summer, and it’s all due to that one pesky thing: ice. So what do you do if you find yourself driving on black ice? Here are a few tips

Take your foot off of the gas

At the first sign that your vehicle is skidding, take your foot off of the gas. It would also help to put your car in neutral and just let your momentum carry you through the skid. If you give your car more gas, you will only make the skidding worse. You don’t want this. Letting off the gas and putting your vehicle in neutral will help you regain control.

Steer into the skid

Steering into the skid has more to do with the direction your vehicle is moving, and not the direction your hood is pointing. For example, if your car is skidding to the right but your hood is pointing to the left, you want to steer to the right (in the direction of the skid, remember that). Make sure that your steering is proportional to the amount of skid. If you’re barely skidding to the right, barely turn the wheel to the right. Don’t overdo it unless you really want to make matters all wonky. An overcorrection will just make matters worse

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ABS (also known as anti-lock brakes)

If you have ABS on your car, apply gentle, even pressure to the brake pedal. ABS brakes are designed to help you regain control by sensing the speed that your wheels are turning at and making necessary adjustments to help you regain control of your vehicle.

Non-ABS brakes

If your vehicle isn’t equipped with antilock brakes, just apply a gentle, even pressure to the brake pedal in a tapping motion. Apply pressure, then release. Don’t do this too fast, and don’t press the brake pedal too hard. Your goal shouldn’t be to stop your car, but to regain control and stop the skid so you can go safely about your business.

Anticipate ice

Never assume that you won’t be driving on black ice in the winter. The road may look dry and clear of snow, water, and ice, but it’s called “black ice” for a reason: because you can’t see it on the road ahead of you. Always expect there to be ice and you’ll probably drive a whole heck of a lot more safely.

Don’t panic

This is probably the most important tip. Freaking out and panicking if your car starts sliding will make you forget everything you know about safely navigating the situation. Keeping calm, following safe driving habits, and remembering the all of the tips above will help you arrive at your destination safely – even when driving conditions are far from ideal. And finally, always wear your seat belt.