It’s wintertime. In these parts, that means it’s time to prepare for treacherous icy driving conditions. Here in Pennsylvania, it’s not uncommon for Mother Nature to deposit thick snowfalls and precipitation that turns our roadways into sheets of ice. Most people familiar with Pennsylvania winter driving know that it’s best to stay off the roads when the biggest storms blow through. Unfortunately, many people fail to realize that even small amounts of ice can lead to accidents. When the temperatures dip below freezing, it’s smart to proceed with caution and assume that you can encounter an icy patch at any time.
Take Extra Care When Driving Over Elevated Surfaces
Any time you’re driving in inclement winter weather, it’s imperative to be alert and cautious. This becomes even more critical as you approach elevated roadways. Why do bridges and overpasses freeze before roads? There’s a scientific reason for this very real phenomenon. When the ambient air temperature falls, surface temperatures fall, too — but not at the same rates. Unlike flat roads, elevated roads like bridges and overpasses are surrounded by cold air, not just from above, but also from below. Whereas flat roads are warmed by retained heat soaked up by the ground, overpasses and bridges lack this retained heat. Instead, the air temperature cools the surface from above and below. When elevated roads are moist, and the air temperature is below freezing, the cumulative effect of cold air from above and below cause the moisture to freeze more quickly.
Be Mindful of Black Ice
Besides slowing down and approaching bridges and overpasses with caution when temperatures dip and moisture is present, knowing how to detect black ice on Pennsylvania roads is essential for safe winter driving. Black ice forms on portions of roads that remain shaded and are not subject to direct sunlight. Even when the main sections of road are clear and dry, and when roads are not elevated, remember that hazardous black ice lurks in the shadows. Approach shaded road areas with caution when the conditions are cold and damp.
How to Drive Safely in Icy Conditions
When driving in winter, keep these tips in mind to increase the odds that you’ll arrive safely to your destination.
- Every vehicle responds differently to icy roads. Experts recommend getting to know how your car handles slick roads by heading to an empty parking lot that is icy or snowy and practicing driving in these conditions. Take it slow and discover how your vehicle reacts to various maneuvers.
- Slow down. On slick roads, it takes twice as long to brake than on a clear one. At minimum, allow a three-car-length gap between your car and the one in front of it.
- Be especially cautious driving a rear-wheel-drive car. Rear-wheel drive cars’ tires lack weight distribution, so they slide more in the ice. Adding weight to the trunk or truck bed of a rear-wheel-drive car can reduce the odds of sliding.
Being aware of how to safely drive on Pennsylvania’s slick winter roads is one way to stay safe this season. Another way is to ensure your vehicle is winter-ready. If it has been a while since your car has been serviced, at Swedish Motors. Be safe; don’t drive on icy roads until you’re sure your vehicle is up for the challenge.