MSP offers more winter driving tips

LANSING — There are almost as many opinions as to how to drive safely on ice or snow as there are automobiles. Most crashes occur when you don’t expect the surface of the road to be slippery.

Many people get into trouble by assuming the roads will not be slippery unless the temperature is freezing or below. Ice can form on road surfaces, however, anytime the air temperature drops to 40 degrees or less, especially when it is windy.

Bridges and underpasses can be especially hazardous, but these are not the only locations “black ice” can form. Any low or shaded area, area surrounded by landscape, or area that has a source of water running over the pavement can also be quick to form ice. Early morning hours are especially dangerous as the moisture has had an opportunity to sit on the cold pavement and freeze.

Others find themselves in trouble during the winter while driving on roads seemingly clear or only slightly wet, and then try to stop at an intersection only to discover that it is ice-covered and slippery. This is caused by the moisture emitting from the exhaust of cars waiting at a busy intersection and quickly freezing on the pavement.

Always approach intersections cautiously.

Some other basic safety tips for winter driving include allowing extra time to arrive at your destination. Slow down and be alert for other vehicles around you that may lose control, and allow at least four seconds between vehicles. Troopers also recommend you allow no less than a car-length in front of you when you are stopped behind another vehicle at a slippery intersection, and then watch your rear-view mirror for cars that may approach you too fast from behind.

Often this extra margin of safety will allow you to pull forward in the event that an approaching vehicle begins to slide. If the intersection is slippery you can signal other drivers to the danger by turning on your hazard flashers.

If you find yourself beginning to slide on snow or ice, DON’T PANIC. Take your foot off the gas and DO NOT hit the brakes. Steer the front of your vehicle into the skid (the same direction you are sliding). This technique is used in both front- and rear-wheel-drive vehicles. If you must use the brakes, do not allow them to lock up; gently pump the brake pedal, unless your car is equipped with anti-lock brakes.

If your car has anti-lock brakes, use a firm, steady pressure WITHOUT pumping. The grinding noise you hear and the surging you feel in the pedal is normal and indicates the brakes are working properly, allowing you to continue to steer and control the vehicle.

And for you 4-wheel-drive enthusiasts, always remember that a 4-wheel-drive vehicle provides additional traction that is useful for going through deep snow, but it does not stop any faster.