Consider safety when traveling in snow, ice


LITTLE ROCK — With wintry weather threatening to strike the area Thursday and Friday, the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department is prepared to provide drivers in the state with up-to-the-minute travel information.

• IDriveArkansas.com provides information on current traffic flow, icy road conditions and construction zones. It also features a weather radar overlay. Use the icons on the right side to control what information you see. Clicking on the Snowflake icon will provide wintry travel information. AHTD urges drivers to visit the site before attempting to drive.

• Motorists can also get information including construction zone lane closures by following the highway department on Twitter @AHTD.

• AHTD will provide a phone number that drivers can call to get a recorded message outlining wintry weather travel information. It’s (501) 569-2374 or (800) 245-1672.

Travel is not recommended during wintry weather events. However, if you must drive, AHTD offers safety tips from the National Safety Commission.

On Icy Roads

Avoid using cruise control on icy or wet roads. Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills. When clearing ice or snow from your car, clear all windows completely and make sure your lights are clear. Keep your windshield clean and your lights on.

Bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads will freeze first, so be especially careful approaching them and driving on them. Even if temperatures are above freezing, if conditions are wet, you might find ice, including black ice, in shady spots and on roadways that exposed underneath like bridges. Roads over culverts should be considered exposed as well.

Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you. Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake.

Never pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you’re likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.

Most importantly, don’t assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.

Skids

If your rear wheels skid:

• Take your foot off the accelerator.

• Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they’re sliding right, steer right.

• If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control.

• If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.

• If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse. This is normal.

If your front wheels skid:

• Take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don’t try to steer immediately.

• As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in “drive” or release the clutch, and accelerate gently.

If Stuck

• Do not spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper.

• Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way.

• Use a light touch on the gas, to ease your car out.

• Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car.

• Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels, to help get traction.

• Try rocking the vehicle. (Check your owner’s manual first — it can damage the transmission on some vehicles.) Shift from forward to reverse, and back again. Each time you’re in gear, give a light touch on the gas until the vehicle gets going.

When traveling in extreme conditions, be prepared. Make sure you have a full tank of gas and keep your cell phone charged. Keep cold-weather clothes and a blanket in the car. Carry water so you can stay hydrated if you are stuck for a period of time.

Ideally, stay home until conditions improve.