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Jan 19

6 Tips for Driving on Black Ice

As many Albertans can attest, winter driving can be unpredictable. So while you’re out on our highways this season, make sure you’re prepared for one of the most dangerous road conditions: black ice.

While driving on Highway 2 this winter, Debbie Hammond, our Executive Director of the Coalition for a Safer 63 and 881, had a personal experience with black ice.

“As I passed the turn off for Olds, I suddenly felt my vehicle start to glide across my line as if someone had taken over control,” she shares. “I felt helpless and terrified. It was like my vehicle had a mind of its own.”

Her number one focus was to keep her vehicle from going off the highway or into oncoming traffic lanes. “With some winter driver and avoidance training from AMA, I had the knowledge and skills to regain control of my vehicle,” she says. “In this case, it’s most likely what saved me.”

Black ice conditions elevate the risk of crashing and often cause devastating consequences. Get to your destination safely by remembering these tips.

1) Know what black ice is and how it can take control of your vehicle

Even on a seemingly mild day, a thin coating of ice can build up on often black road surfaces, making the ice invisible to drivers. Typically, you won’t know you’ve hit a patch of black ice until your vehicle starts to slide out of your lane and you lose the ability to steer.

2) Reduce your speed below the posted limit

Maximum speed limits are for perfect weather and road conditions. So once you know the winter road conditions on, it’s important to reduce your speed accordingly so that you can react faster and regain control of your vehicle in the event of an issue.

3) Don’t use cruise control

Hitting black ice happens quickly, and your reaction time needs to be just as fast. When you set cruise control to a certain speed, the vehicle is then programmed to maintain that speed. But if you need to slow down quickly, the control feeds more gas to your engine so you accelerate, and that acceleration can happen at the wrong time.

4) Check road conditions on before travelling

By looking at a reliable road report before you begin your journey, you’ll know what to expect. Even “good” and “fair” conditions can show icy sections of the road that you can be aware of before venturing out.

5) Plan for a longer travel time

Since you’re going to be driving at a reduced speed, it’ll take you a little longer to get where you’re going. Plan to give yourself some extra time while you’re out on the roads.

6) Use your driver’s training or invest in getting some

Winter driving requires your full attention, training and a calm demeanor. If you hit black ice, remember not to make any sudden movements with the steering wheel. Instead, gently steer in the direction you want your vehicle to go. And to slow down, it’s critical to take your foot off the gas instead of hitting the brakes. Driver training tips like these just might save your life and prevent a major collision.