Given the choice, you might prefer to avoid driving on icy roads altogether. But sometimes you have no alternative but to get behind the wheel on a cold winter morning and head to work or drop the kids at school.
If you do have to go out in icy conditions, then there are some steps you can take to stay as safe as possible.
Part of that involves preparing yourself and your car. In winter, it’s particularly important to make sure your car is well-maintained, with tyres in good condition and windscreen wash topped up; see our rundown of essential winter car maintenance tips for the full list.
It’s also wise to ensure you have some essentials with you in the car, including an ice-scraper, a torch, a blanket, warm clothes, and a fully-charged phone.
Also, check the weather forecasts and local transport news to plan your route carefully and allow plenty of time for potential hold-ups.
Finally, clear ice completely from your windscreen and all windows before setting off. You can’t get away with just clearing a small hole in your icy windscreen and hoping the rest will defrost as you drive. In fact, the Highway Code states that “you MUST be able to see, so clear all snow and ice from all your windows”.
Take it easy
If it’s icy, you’ll have to slow down and drive cautiously, especially when going round corners or if your view of the road ahead is obscured. That way, you’ll have more time to anticipate hazards, including black ice on the road, vulnerable road users or another vehicle that’s in trouble.
Keep a large gap between your car and the vehicle in front of you, as stopping distances can increase ten-fold in icy conditions.
Watch out for black ice
Ice, unlike snow, can be tricky to spot. This is especially true for the dreaded black ice, a thin layer of ice on the road which is transparent - it’s the colour of the road underneath, which makes it look black. Look out for a glossy, wet look to the road, and be particularly careful if you see other drivers sliding.
Since black ice is so tricky to spot - especially in shaded areas or in the dark - Uniroyal Tyres recommends using your car thermometer as a guide. If it’s close to freezing, you’ll need to be extra careful.
What if you slide on ice?
To help you stay in control when it’s really icy, avoid harsh braking and acceleration. Carry out manoeuvres extra slowly.
Use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin. That is unless you’re driving downhill, in which case it’s safest to stick to a lower gear to stay in control.
Try and anticipate the need to stop or slow down, so you can brake gently.
If you do encounter icy patches on the road and your car skids, then it can be very frightening. If this happens, resist the urge to brake hard as this could make the slide worse. Instead, ease off the accelerator and steer slightly into the direction of the skid until you gain control.
If you’re driving at a cautious speed, it’s easier to correct a slide and stay safe on icy roads.