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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Icy road conditions send vehicles off in ditches

Friday, January 21, 2011

Photo/Tammy Curtis This Jan. 17 early morning accident in Ash Flat was a result of the icy road conditions caused by freezing fog and mist. Many vehicles in Sharp County found their way into ditches as a result of black ice.
Many awakened to a freezing, thick fog on Monday, Jan. 17. Due to the Martin Luther King holiday, which left both State Highway personnel as well as county road crews off work, many drivers found their way into ditches very quickly.

By the time traffic began to move, just after 6 a.m. in Sharp County, Central Dispatch was flooded with calls about vehicles off the road. From Bowman Hill, just outside Hardy, to a rollover accident off Pontiac Road in Cherokee Village and accidents near the Walmart in Ash Flat, police and Spring River Paramedic Ambulance Service were kept busy. Just minutes before the ambulance crews' 7 a.m. shift change, they were called out to yet another icy road related accident.

Schools were not called off, except for Highland, because bad weather was not expected. However, the combination of black ice and freezing fog created a very hazardous situation and, with highway workers off for the federal holiday, getting the roads treated proved problematic.

During most ice or snow related accidents, drivers slide off the road due to braking issues, related to fear or driving at too fast of a rate of speed.

Below are some helpful hints from Car and Driver magazine for handling winter driving conditions.

The best tip for winter driving: Sometimes it's best to stay home, or at least remain where you are until snow plows and sanding crews have done their work.

Get a grip. To have adequate snow traction, a tire requires at least 6/32-inch deep tread, according to The Tire Rack. (New passenger-car tires traditionally have 10/32-inch of tread.) Ultrahigh-performance "summer" tires have little or no grip in snow. Even "all-season" tires don't necessarily have great snow traction.

Make sure you can see. Replace windshield wiper blades. Clean the inside of your windows thoroughly. Apply a water-shedding material (such as Rain-X) to the outside of all windows, including the mirrors. Make sure your windshield washer system works and is full of an anti-icing fluid. Drain older fluid by running the washers until new fluid appears.

Run the air-conditioner. In order to remove condensation and frost from the interior of windows, engage your air-conditioner and select the fresh air option.

Check your lights. Use your headlights so that others will see you and not pull out in front of you. Make sure your headlights and tail lights are clear of snow. If you have an older car with sand-pitted headlights, get a new set of lenses.

Give yourself a brake. Learn how to get maximum efficiency from your brakes before an emergency. It's easy to properly use antilock brakes: Stomp, stay and steer. Stomp on the pedal as if you were trying to snap it off. Stay hard on the pedal. Steer around the obstacle. If you drive on icy roads or roads that are covered with snow, modify your ABS technique: After you "Stomp" and the ABS begins cycling -- you will feel pulses in the pedal or hear the system working -- ease up slightly on the pedal until the pulsing happens only once a second.

For vehicles without ABS, you'll have to rely on the old-fashioned system: You. For non-ABS on a mixed-surface road, push the brake pedal hard until the wheels stop rolling, then immediately release the brake enough to allow the wheels to begin turning again. Repeat this sequence rapidly. This is not the same as "pumping the brake." Your goal is to have the tires producing maximum grip regardless of whether the surface is snow, ice or damp pavement.

Watch carefully for "black ice." If the road looks slick, it probably is. This is especially true with one of winter's worst hazards: "black ice." Also called "glare ice," this is nearly transparent ice that often looks like a harmless puddle or is overlooked entirely.

Remember the tough spots. You must remember where icy roads tend to occur. Bridges and intersections are common places.

Too much steering is bad. If a slick section in a turn causes your front tires to lose grip, the common -- but incorrect -- reaction is to continue turning the steering wheel. That's like writing checks on an overdrawn account. It won't improve the situation and may make things worse. If the icy conditions end and the front tires regain grip, your car will dart whichever way the wheels are pointed. That may be into oncoming traffic or a telephone pole. Something very similar happens if you steer too much while braking with ABS. Sadly, there are situations where nothing will prevent a crash, but turning the steering too much never helps.

Avoid rear-tire slides. First, choose a car with electronic stability control. Fortunately, ESC will be mandatory on all 2012 models. Next, make sure your rear tires have at least as much tread as your front tires. Finally, if you buy winter tires, get four.

Technology offers no miracles. All-wheel drive and electronic stability control can get you into trouble by offering a false sense of security. AWD can only help a vehicle accelerate or keep moving: It can't help you go around a snow-covered turn, much less stop at an icy intersection. ESC can prevent a spinout, but it can't clear ice from the roads or give your tires more traction. Don't let these lull you into overestimating the available traction.

Regardless of your driving skill or vehicle preparation, there are some winter conditions that can't be conquered.

But these tips may help prevent snowy and icy roads from ruining your day.

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