This type of condition is rarely encountered by the majority of drivers in this part of the world. But there are places in both Australia and New Zealand that experience frozen weather conditions on a regular basis. Of course it’s also possible that these conditions can occasionally appear in areas that won’t normally experience ice or snow.
It pays to keep a close watch on the weather forecast reports to help you plan things and prepare for the road conditions you may be facing the following day. Encountering snow and ice for the first time can be an interesting experience but you need to remember that the change in the scenery also means a change in the driving conditions.
Ice can take you by surprise because it generally occurs in patches and is often very difficult to see. It offers zero grip and, as we know, grip is everything. Ice is so slippery you can hardly walk on it, let alone drive on it.
Dealing with ice encompasses everything we have discussed to this point and requires a ‘steady as you go’ mindset. You need to have your technique working and be as smooth as you can with the controls. ‘Read’ the road ahead for any possibility of a change and plan what you are going to do next.
Keep the car’s speed well down because by the time you've realised you are going too fast, on ice it will already be too late. Be especially careful when travelling downhill. If you hit a patch of ice, the grip will disappear very quickly, which means the car will suddenly go ‘light’ and start to move off-line.
The big thing is not to panic and over-correct the car. You'll need to reduce speed by easing off the power - but avoid hitting the brakes. Generally, ice patches are only short, so hopefully the grip will return quickly. This may not always be the case though, and if the car is sliding, it will continue to do so until the grip returns.
This is why it is so important to keep your speed down, and at a level where you can handle the situation if things suddenly get tricky.
It is wise to keep an eye on the weather forecast and put yourself on alert if the temperature is likely to get to the freezing point. You can also make good use of the car's outside temperature gauge if it has one.
If you're heading for the snow, it is advisable to contact your State auto club for additional information on the area. They can assist you should you need to buy or hire a set of snowchains for the wheels. There are some areas where you are required by law to carry chains and must fit them if directed to do so by the local authorities or by road signs.
Chains must specifically fit the wheels and tyres on your car. Make sure they are fitted according to the instructions. In countries where snow and ice are more common, drivers often fit special snow tyres which have studs to help grip the road - although in such persistent frozen conditions a couple of reindeer and a sleigh might be more appropriate!
Drive Safely – Russell White CARMA Road Safety Ambassador
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