Unless you’re on Park Jefferson Speedway, you have only one goal while you’re driving: get wherever you’re going safely. (If you are on Park Jefferson Speedway, your second goal is to win.)

Unfortunately, the winter conditions we look forward to here in Iowa make driving safely more challenging. Doing everything you can to minimize risk on winter roads is well worth the effort. It’s not just about avoiding car insurance claims. It’s about protecting yourself and other drivers. More than 116,000 people will be injured in vehicle accidents on snowy, slushy or icy roads in the United States this year alone. Sadly, over 1,300 others will fare even worse. 

If you want to drive safer this winter, then here is good news: you can start right now. Just follow our tips.


Slow Down

It’s the first tip because it’s the most important. When the roads are slippery, your vehicle needs longer distances to come to a complete stop. It’s a simple demonstration of traction in action.

If you drive 35 mph on dry pavement, you would need 60 to 100 feet to stop your vehicle. Wet roads can double that minimum stopping distance. On icy roads, you may need up to 600 feet to stop your vehicle – and you won’t have any control while you’re doing it. 

Slowing down won’t just give you more time to react to road hazards. It also won’t cost you much time in exchange. At 55 mph, you would drive 10 miles in 10 minutes, 55 seconds. At 45 mph, it would only take you 2 minutes, 20 seconds longer to cover the same distance.


Look Out for Black Ice

“Black ice” is actually clear, because it’s so thin. Only the road beneath it is black. Therein lies the problem: sometimes the road is covered in slippery, almost invisible ice that can send you skidding out even when you’re driving at low speed.

Black ice isn’t always impossible to see. If the road appears wet when it’s colder than 32 °F, then it’s safe to assume black ice is everywhere. (Take care that car external thermometers are inaccurate.)

It’s possible to predict black ice. If the air was recently dewey or foggy, and it then froze, then black ice formation is likely. Black ice is also prone to form on bridges and overpasses, as well as parts of road that are shaded from sunlight.


Use Your Vehicle’s Features Cautiously

Does your vehicle feature cruise control? Act like it doesn’t during winter. Cruise control forces wheels to spin faster when they lose traction, which in turn can force the vehicle to lunge forward and lose control.

Does your vehicle feature four-wheel or all-wheel drive? While it may have more traction on gravel, mud and sand, it can still handle just as poorly on ice as any two-wheel drive vehicle would have. 

Does your vehicle feature an anti-lock braking system (ABS)? That can help prevent your wheels from locking up while you’re braking so you can continue steering. It can also help you stop faster on a slippery road. It may not shorten your stopping distance, however, which is why ABS cannot substitute for driving at a slower speed.


Use Snow Tires

As their name implies, winter tires provide better traction on snowy, icy roadways than all-season tires. This is because they have more flexible and aggressive treads, as well as siping which increases the treads’ overall surface area while they’re pressed against pavement.

Studded snow tires promote even better handling on ice and packed snow. Different states have different regulations on studded snows; in Iowa, they are only legal November 1st through April 1st.


Keep Chains in Your Vehicle

Tire chains grip slippery roads that tires alone cannot. There’s a bit of a learning curve when it comes to putting on tire chains, but it’s worth the extra traction on snow and ice. Although tire chains aren’t magical devices that let you drive at full speed during a blizzard, they can improve handling well enough to prevent a low-speed collision.

Are tire chains legal in Iowa? They are, under appropriate circumstances. According to state law, “it shall be permissible to use: […] Tire chains of reasonable proportions upon any vehicle when required for safety because of snow, ice, or other conditions tending to cause a vehicle to skid.” If you’re not blessed to live in Iowa, check your state’s laws before investing in tire chains.Following our winter driving tips can help you stay safer. But sadly, nothing can make you perfectly safe. That’s why there is insurance: it protects you after something bad has happened. If you would like the peace of mind that can only come from a comprehensive auto insurance policy which fits your budget, then we welcome you to contact The Hoffman Agency of Sioux City, IA today!