Winter weather creates need for winter driving skills in northern Iowa today

News, Weather

December 3rd, 2011 by Ric Hanson

AMES, Iowa – Dec. 3, 2011 – Along with the hats, mittens and boots, dig out your winter driving skills today as light rain and drizzle is already creating some icy patches on northeast Iowa roadways this morning. Weather conditions are expected to deteriorate in northern Iowa as the day goes on and a wintry mix moves through that part of the state. Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) crews will be monitoring weather conditions throughout the anticipated winter storm. Log on to www.511ia.org for the latest road conditions or http://www.weatherview.dot.state.ia.us for updated weather and travel information.

If you must travel during this winter weather event, please consider the following recommendations….

If you are driving focus your attention on the driving task and slow down. Do not use cruise control. Put your mobile phone away so you are not tempted to talk or text while driving. Keep a safe distance from vehicles in adjacent lanes as strong wind gusts could push a vehicle outside its lane of travel. Put a safe distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead in case sudden driving maneuvers are necessary.

Take extra care if driving a high-profile vehicle such as a truck, van or sports utility vehicle, or when towing a trailer, as these vehicles are more prone to be pushed or even flipped by wind gusts. Your vehicle’s headlights are a valuable asset when driving in winter weather. Turn them on to see and be seen.

If conditions are severe enough to prevent safe driving, postpone your trip; or if en route, identify the nearest safe place to pull off the roadway, such as a rest area, truck stop, motel or other traveler service until the wind subsides and road conditions improve.  Keep your windshield clear of ice. Allow extra travel time.

If the roads are icy, and if your vehicle begins to slide, take your foot off the gas pedal and shift into neutral, or if you have a manual transmission, depress the clutch. While it may be a natural instinct to slam on your brakes, this may cause your vehicle to slide further and result in loss of vehicle control. Tap the brake pedal lightly.  If you have an idea that there may be ice ahead (if you see vehicles ahead of you sliding, for example), downshift to a lower gear before you come onto the ice. The lower gear will force you to drive more slowly and give you better control of your vehicle.

If your vehicle does begin to skid on the ice, turn the wheel in the direction of the skid. This should help to steer your vehicle back on the right track. Stay well behind the vehicle in front of you – this is definitely not the time to tailgate. Even if you feel confident that you know how to drive safely on ice, that does not mean the driver in front of you does. Be prepared in case other vehicles start to slide. Do not think you are invincible just because you drive a four-wheel drive truck or sports utility vehicle. Four-wheel drive vehicles have no advantage over other vehicles when it comes to driving on ice.

Make sure you and your passengers are wearing their seatbelts or other safety restraints.  Winter driving is always unpredictable, so be prepared for the unexpected.