How To Drive On Slick, Icy Roads
It seems that we have to go through this spiel at least once a year, so lets get to it. Driving on icy roads isn't as simple and straight forward as it seems. It's not just feather the throttle and tippy-tap on those brakes. In my own case, 380 horsepower and 410 pound feet of torque tends to compound the problem. In my thirty minute, six and a half mile commute to the downtown studios today, I saw several cases of negligent stupidity, so I figured I'd let you in on a couple of pro-tips for driving in icy winter weather.
First and foremost, make sure you can see out of every window in your vehicle. As per usual, traffic was very light this morning. Most people are staying home to avoid this weather, I would have to if I thought Critter wouldn't make fun of me for it. But of the few cars on the road, I can't tell you how many cars I saw rolling with iced up windows and a little porthole scraped off the windshield so the driver could at least see where they were going.
I get it, when I was young and in college, I committed this exact same road-sin. You're running late, don't think you have enough time to think about safety, etc... I get it. The people that do this haven't yet realized that there's more to life than punctuality for any occasion. If your boss isn't cool with you running late during a weather event like this, get a new boss. Nobody in this world is going to look out for your best interest, so it's up to you. Take the extra few minutes and clear those windows. I just started my truck, locked it up and went back inside for about ten minutes. When I came back out, it was all clear, good to go.
Second, four-wheel drive and/or all-wheel drive doesn't give you any advantage on ice. In fact, it ups your odds for sliding out of control. I grew up most of my life in North-Central Oklahoma. It gets quite a bit of snow every winter, but ice is something everyone up there lives with a few times each year. And throughout every notable ice storm I've experienced in life, when I think back on what I saw, it's always some dude in a lifted 4x4 trying to dig himself out of a ditch. It's physics. When you hit the gas pedal too hard, your tires lose their friction to the road. In a two-wheel drive vehicle, it's noticeable. That's why you very lightly feather your gas pedal just enough to get some forward momentum. Now, if all four of your wheels are powered, it's a lot easier for all of those wheels to lose that friction even when you're just lightly applying power. Don't get lulled into a false sense of security thinking four-wheel drive will help you on slick roads. They won't.
Third, your brakes are not your friend when it's icy. If you let off the gas pedal, your vehicle will naturally slow down under its own weight. It's calls back to the physics of driving. Eventually, if you have the patience and distance, you can stop your car at a light without having to apply it too much. You just roll to a very slow speed, and then lightly pressing the brake pedal will clinch the motion. If you just wait til you come up on the light or vehicle in front of you, then press the brake pedal, odds are you're going to have a bad time. That moment where you realize you just messed up, and every possible scenario runs through your head of how to avoid the inevitable collision. I saw this happen twice today in my little six and a half miles of driving.
Lastly, and this pretty much sums up all driving in slick road conditions, slow down. You'll get to where you need to be eventually. If you have a boss that can't empathize these conditions, leave early enough to be on-time then spend your lunch hour looking for a new job. Clear your windows, tippy-tap the accelerator and brake pedal, leave enough room ahead of you. Never feel judged or stupid being the slow person on the road. If those other drivers want to pretend they know what they're doing and go around, let 'em. Just take it easy when you drive past their crash later down the road.