Driving On Ice: What You Need To Know To Stay In Control

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Richard Suttle runs the Alabama Driving Academy, typically teaching teenagers what to do on the road.

He says he’s got “more certifications than [he] know[s] what to do with.”

Although maybe his most important qualification for winter driving, he’s from Milwaukee.

When he’s behind the wheel, often teaching students how to handle a car, he does it with a certain mindset.

Suttle says, “My mission is to make Alabama highways the safest in the nation.”

The biggest problem that gets in the way of that during winter weather?

Keeping control.

Many mistakes happen when rubber no longer meets the road and hits ice instead.

Suttle recommends, “If you feel as though your back-end is about to start swinging out on you, whatever way that back-end is going, that’s the way that you’re supposed to turn your steering wheel.”

So if the back of your car starts to skid left, turn left.

“The number one thing is don’t give up in the skid, whatever you do,” Suttle says, “Because hopefully sooner or later, you’ll hit a smooth patch or a dry patch where the car will correct itself.”

So if you’re behind the wheel and you start to lose control, stay calm, stay patient, and turn toward the skid.

But you could run into a myriad of other issues.

The easiest way to avoid most of them?  Go slow.

Suttle points out, “If you’re going slow then when you start losing traction, it’ll be slight.  If you’re driving fast when you lose traction, it’ll be severe.”

If you do find your tires losing traction, look for snow.

“You can’t get any traction on ice, but you can get traction on snow,” explains Suttle.  He adds, “You have to know that you have good tires. That’s the most important part is knowing that you have some tread on your tires.  Because if you have slick tires, it doesn’t matter if you have four-wheel drive.  If you don’t have good tread, you’re going to slide.”

One last note – do not slam your brakes. Go slow, so you rely on them as little as possible.  They won’t do anything if you lose traction.


  • Cheryl

    I agree, but would also add a few things (no order of importance)
    1. brake early and gently (as well as going slow and wear your seatbelt).
    2. Leave extra space between yourself and the vehicle ahead.
    3. Most vehicles have a low or 1st gear, even automatics. This will give you extra tracttion.
    4. Take care in choosing your route. High travel road are most likely to be damp vice ice, but also more likely to have accidents.
    5. Make sure your phone is charged, you are able to pay for a tow & you have emergency supplies in your trunk (Blanket, kitty litter, the ugly sweater/hat/gloves you got for Christmas, etc…)
    6. Double your travel time. This will help to keep your attention on the road and not worrying about getting where you are going.
    7. Take special care around corners and on bridges.
    8. If you are stuck on a hill. Drop to low gear and apply gas gently.

    Anyone have any other suggestions for getting moving again after getting stuck on a hill?

  • laura

    You can let some air out of your tires to increase traction; more square inches of rubber on ground equals more contact equals more traction. I once gathered twigs and jammed them under my tires (after letting some air out) when stuck on an icy road, but it was rather flat, wouldn’t help if incline is too deep.

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