Many in Western Washington woke up to frost on the windshield and black ice on the road Wednesday morning.
Winter driving conditions have returned, although the snow has not fallen yet. That means someone is going to spin out, crash or get stuck on a hill eventually – something that will slow down everyone behind them.
To avoid being that driver, the Washington State Department of Transportation, Washington State Patrol and automotive website Edmunds.com offers these tips:
- Defrost your windshield before you drive.
- Drive slower and accelerate slower in winter conditions.
- Don't pump your brakes. For people with antilock (ABS) brakes, Edmunds.com says to stomp and stay on them, then steer out of the way of the obstacle you are approaching. If you don't have ABS, Edmunds.com says push the brake pedal hard until the wheels stop rolling, then immediately release the brake enough to allow the wheels to begin turning again. Repeat this sequence rapidly.
- Don't oversteer. If you oversteer and your vehicle regains traction, it may send you in a direction you don't want to go.
- Use your headlights, even in the daytime.
- Don’t use cruise control.
- Four-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicles do not help you stop or steer better on the ice.
- Leave extra room between you and the vehicle in front of you. Remember that the bigger the vehicle, the longer it takes to stop.
- Slow down when approaching intersections, offramps, bridges or shady spots. These are usually the spots with the most ice.
- When the snow falls, stay 15 car lengths behind snow plows. It’s tempting to get right behind them, but the snowplow driver has a limited field of vision. Don’t pass unless you’re sure it’s safe or until the plow has pulled off the road.
- If approaching a snow plow that’s coming the opposite direction, slow down and try to give it a little extra room. It may throw some snow and ice on your vehicle.
- Slow down at chain-up and removal areas to avoid hitting people who are putting chains on their vehicles.
- Carry chains and know the current travel conditions on the mountain passes. When highway advisories call for chains, drivers who don’t chain up will face a $500 penalty. If you have a vehicle that's not approved for chains, WSP has alternatives.
- Make sure your car's fluids are at the proper level, tires are properly inflated and that windshield wipers and light bulbs are working properly.
- Carry extra weight in the back of your vehicle. "I have a pickup truck and I always put big sand bags in the back of that truck. Lighter weight vehicles in the back like that have a tendency to spin out easier,” said Trooper Chris Webb.
- Carry a shovel, first aid supplies, gloves, a flashlight, blankets and an ice scraper in case you get stuck.
- If you are involved in a collision, stay in your vehicle.
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