Ice: tips for safe driving

SLOW FOR CURVES, intersections and shaded roadways where ice and slush increase sliding possibilities.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea.
SLOW FOR CURVES, intersections and shaded roadways where ice and slush increase sliding possibilities.

It’s called “black ice” because it tends to look like the rest of the pavement on the road.

In truth, it’s actually just clear ice that formed without creating bubbles — making it blend in with any surface it forms over.

Black ice is dangerous precisely because it’s hard to detect in advance. However, any ice, black or white, creates danger for drivers.

Standard winter driving tips can help prevent ice or snow related driving accidents. Beginning with the basics:

n Be sure to clear your whole windshield and all surrounding windows of ice before starting out.

n Use your low-beam lights to improve visibility.

n Slow down and avoid rapid acceleration on icy roads.

n Increase your following distance; ice can double the stopping distances needed.

n Minimize braking and avoid sudden directional changes; anticipate your steering inputs to drive as smoothly as possible.

n Watch for black ice in areas that don’t receive direct sunlight.

n Review the owner’s manual of your car to familiarize yourself with your car’s handling techniques — and learn what your anti-lock braking system (ABS) feels like when it engages.

n Conduct real-world training for ice-driving; use vacant parking lots to test braking distances and slide experiences — particularly for new drivers.

Understanding how black ice forms will increase your safe driving preparedness.

Black ice develops most commonly at night or in the early morning when the temperatures are at their lowest, or when the sun isn’t visibly warming the roads.

Black ice tends to form on parts of the road without much sunshine, such as along a tree-lined route or a tunnel. Shadows on the roadway are a sign of potential danger.

Also watch roads that are less traveled on for increased ice formation.

Black ice forms readily on bridges, overpasses and the road beneath overpasses. This is because the cold air is able to cool both the top and under the bridge or overpass, bringing about faster freezing.

With a few more detailed tips, drivers can further reduce chances of ice-specific slides and crashes.

If you hit black ice:

n remain calm and avoid overreacting

n do not hit the brakes

n slow down by taking your foot off of the gas

n if you can, shift into low gear

n try to keep the steering wheel straight

n if you feel the back end of your car sliding left or right, gently turn the steering wheel in the same direction to lower the risk of skidding or spinning out

And, following the advice of an old television police supervisor, “Be careful out there.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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