Illinois gets its share of inclement weather in the wintertime, like yesterday! Often, that leads to water and snow freezing on roadways, causing ice patches or even a solid layer of ice. Usually, this leads to slippery roads that cause many drivers to lose control of their vehicles and get into auto accidents.
How slippery a road is can be defined by what is known as the coefficient of friction, or the frictional force between the tires and the road that helps stop a vehicle. The coefficient of friction is always a number between 0 and 1; and the lower the value, the more slippery the road is. As an example; dry roads generally have a coefficient of friction of around .9, while rainy roads have a value of about .6. But when snow is added into the equation, the coefficient drops to approximately .2 – and with ice, the value can be just .05.
Thankfully, many modern vehicles have safety features which help a driver control a vehicle on icy surfaces, including:
- Anti-lock brakes – this mechanism will cause the brakes to “pump” repeatedly when the brake pedal is depressed steadily. On icy roads, getting the ABS system to pump about once per second is ideal for optimum braking.
- All-wheel drive – as the name implies, power is directed to all four wheels of a vehicle instead of just two; so if the front wheels lose some traction, the rear wheels can compensate (and vice-versa). However, AWD does nothing to improve braking or cornering in ice or snow.
- Electronic stability control – all vehicles from model year 2012 and on are required by law to be equipped with ESC. This comprehensive system automatically senses when the steering wheel and the vehicle’s direction are out of alignment, and applies more braking to one or two wheels and/or reduces engine power accordingly.
Despite these safety measures, driver behavior is still important when traveling on icy roads. Here are some tips for traveling safely in icy or snowy conditions:
- Reduce your speed significantly.
- Do not oversteer if you feel your vehicle start to lose traction.
- Turn into a skid in order to correct your vehicle’s direction.
- Make sure your tires have at least 3/16 of an inch of tread before driving in snowpack.
- Make sure your rear tires are not underinflated.
- Maximize your visibility by running window defrosters and windshield wipers.
- Be sure your lights are clear of snow or ice so that other drivers can see you more clearly.
- Be aware of “black ice” in addition to the ice that is visible.
- If you don’t have to drive, stay home.
If you are injured in an auto accident on icy roads that was the fault of another driver, contact a qualified auto accident attorney as soon as possible.