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Winter’s First Black Ice and Snow

November 26, 2012

Obviously, we are not ready for winter yet!  This morning’s commute was a nightmare for many in Chittenden county.  A little bit of snow as well as black ice are the culprits.  A co-worker called in to say she was on her fourth detour, and was once again at a standstill.  Her commute is usually 40 minutes; this morning was 2 hours!!

Usually the first snow doesn’t come with black ice, but often the results are the same – multiple fender-benders and cars sliding off the road.  Looks like we need a quick lesson on driving in snowy and possibly icy weather.  These rules are pretty basic, but we all see people not following them:

  • Make sure your tires are inflated to the correct pressure and that you have good tread.  To be safe in snow, it is recommended to have at least 6/32″ of tread.  An easy way to measure is with a penny.  Put the penny in the tread (at several places around the tire); if the top of the Lincoln Memorial is always covered by the tread, you have more than 6/32″ of tread depth remaining.
  • Clear your car of snow and ice.  This includes your headlights and taillights.  Make sure the windows are defrosted.  Turn your headlights on.  You need to see and be seen.  Is your windshield washer reservoir filled with non-freezing washer solution?  That snow and ice brush that you took out of your car in the spring needs to go back in the car.
  • Slow down and leave extra space between you and the vehicle in front of you – at least 3 times as much!  On icy roads, you need 3 to 12 times the normal braking distance to stop.
  • When stopping, ease off the accelerator, avoid braking suddenly.  ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System) will help with vehicle control, but may increase the stopping distance.  If you are one of the few without ABS brakes, you may need to pump your brakes to keep the brakes from locking up in slippery conditions.
  • Don’t use cruise control.
  • Approach bridges, overpasses and shady areas with caution; they may be  icy while the rest of the road is not.
  • If your vehicle is 4-wheel-drive, don’t assume that it can handle any conditions.  Over the years I’ve seen many 4 WD vehicles that slid off the road.  No vehicle is good on ice, although studded tires definitely have an advantage on ice.

It’s just 32º here, it’s been sunny for quite a while; the road appears clear.  Wishing you all a safe commute home.




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