Intuition needed on slippery roads
As well as a winter-ready vehicle, drivers who do not want to risk veering wildly on wintry roads also need a good dose of composure and an adapted driving style. “Road and weather conditions can change in an instant,” warns Thomas Gut, an accident expert at DEKRA. “Always be careful to only do what is possible while maintaining maximum safety in the situation at hand. Use the gas and brake pedals cautiously and maintain a sufficient gap.”
“Particularly once the temperature outside has fallen below 4°C (39°F), extra caution is advised. It is in those conditions that the first patches of ice start to form on the pavement.” Bridges, sections of road passing through cold wooded areas, and windswept hilltops and plateaus are particularly high risk. “Do not take speed limits lightly and keep an eye out for any traffic signs warning of snowy or icy conditions, such as the snowflake sign commonly used in Germany which warns drivers of unexpected black ice formation,” the expert adds.
If the roads are completely covered with ice or snow, a great deal of intuition is required when accelerating, braking, or steering. When drivers ease down on the gas pedal and drive at a relatively low speed, this makes it harder for the wheels to spin out of control. But any abrupt maneuvers – for instance, when braking or steering – are sure to send the vehicle skidding. Nevertheless, in the event of an emergency, drivers of vehicles with ABS should hit the brakes hard to avoid uncontrolled swerving.
Those behind the wheel also have to be fully engaged on slippery roads. “Make sure not to get distracted by your smartphone or navigation system,” Gut warns. “An individual who is distracted for just two seconds at 50 km/h (approx. 31 mph) will travel blindly for around 28 meters (approx. 91 feet). And on slippery roads, the risk of an accident is bound to increase.” If the weather forecast reports slippery roads, it is advisable to plan more time for trips in the car, too. “Rushing, acting impatiently, and driving rashly are toxic when it comes to safety on the road, especially in winter,” says the accident expert. On days with extreme weather, sometimes taking the bus or train instead is far from the worst decision.