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Winter is a beautiful time of the year, especially when a fresh layer of new snow covers everything.
Winter can also be a very dangerous time of the year. If you plan on traveling during the winter, it pays to be prepared for the unexpected. Getting stranded during a winter storm can be a matter of life and death.
Simply following a few simple driving habits like planning ahead, driving at a safe and legal speed, driving alert and sober and buckling up could insure that you make it to your destination safely.
If you must use your car during a storm:
- Plan your travel, selecting both primary and alternate routes.
- Let someone know your travel routes and itinerary so that, if you don't arrive on time, officials will know where to search for you.
- Check latest weather information on your radio.
- Try not to travel alone - two or three people are preferable.
- Travel in convoy (with another vehicle) if possible.
- Drive carefully and defensively. Watch for ice patches on bridges and overpasses.
- Take note of your odometer and coordinate it with exit numbers, mileposts, or crossroads so if you are in a crash or slide off the road you'll better be able to identify where you are and summon law enforcement officers, rescue workers, or tow truck operators more quickly to your location.
- If a storm begins to be too much for you to handle, seek refuge immediately.
- If your car should become disabled, stay with the vehicle, running your engine and heater for short intervals. Be sure to "crack" a window in the vehicle to avoid carbon monoxide build-up.
Be courteous to those awaiting your arrival:
- Call ahead to your destination just as you are leaving.
- Let someone at your destination know the license number of your vehicle, what route you'll be traveling, and give a realistic estimate of your travel time.
- If you have a cell phone, give that number to the party at your destination.
- If you have friends or family at your place of origin, you should call when you arrive to let them know you have arrived safely.
- If road conditions, tiredness, etc. delay or postpone a trip, make a phone call. Let people on both ends know of the delay.
Article from WI DOT
How To Handle Black Ice
By far, the most dangerous driving condition is driving on black ice, otherwise known as glare ice. You've probably heard one of these terms used before, but what exactly is this type of ice and why is it so dangerous?
Simply put, black ice is a thin layer of frozen water which contains very few air bubbles. The lack of bubbles in the ice causes it to be completely transparent. Since the ice is transparent, it simply takes on the same color as the surface it's attached to. So if you're on black pavement, it will simply look like the asphalt. The only real visual warning you'll have is that the roadway will have a wet appearance. The same is true for any road surface, including light colored roadways such as concrete or even red brick roads. It doesn't matter if the surface is black, white, orange, green, or any other color. This kind of ice is almost invisible to the naked eye on any surface.
It forms in a few different ways. The most common way is when the outside air temperature is warmer than the roadway surface. Moisture is in liquid form, but immediately freezes when it comes into contact with the roadway surface.
A quick drop in temperatures can also cause you to unknowingly drive on ice. Water on the roadway can quickly freeze with a sudden drop in temperatures, especially on untreated roadways or across bridges and overpasses. One minute you may be driving on a wet surface, then suddenly the next minute you're on black ice!
As seen in the photo to the right, this glare ice was caused by blowing snow drifting onto the roadway. Snowplows dropping salt melted the snow, but then the melted snow refroze onto the road surface. This shows that even during a bright and sunny day, ice is still a risk!
How to detect black ice
Unfortunately, black ice is very hard to detect, especially when there is no sunlight illuminating the surface of the road which can sometimes create a glare. At night, it is nearly impossible to see even with the best headlights on the market. Luckily, there are some other warning signs you can look for.
Dangerous temperature ranges
If you live in a climate where temperatures reach below freezing, you should always have a temperature gauge in your vehicle. If your car doesn't have one, you can buy them for relatively cheap at retail stores and some car washes.
Knowing the exact temperature outside is the best way to know if icing is occurring or could possibly occur. When the temperature starts getting close to 32 degrees Fahrenheit, or zero degrees Celsius, you should start getting concerned. While treated roadways shouldn't freeze up as quickly, there will still be patches of frozen surfaces to be concerned with. Also be on the lookout for bridges, overpasses, lightly traveled roadways, and untreated road surfaces. These areas can become extremely hazardous very quickly. You should also use special caution crossing railroad tracks, driving through construction zones, and when changing from one roadway surface to another (such as from concrete to asphalt).
Look for water spray
If roadway icing is occurring, you will see very little if any water spray coming from the tires of your vehicle or other vehicles around you, even when the roadway appears to be wet. This is extremely dangerous as you are almost certainly driving on ice!!!
Feel your outside mirrors
Here's a trick I learned during my trucking days. If freezing conditions exist, ice will begin forming on the leading edge of your side mirrors. Open your window and run your finger over the front surface of your driver’s side mirror (and/or have a passenger check on the passenger side mirror). If ice is forming on either mirror that means it's cold enough for water to freeze on the roadway.
What to do while driving on ice
If you discover that you're driving on ice, there is one thing you must do before anything else - remain totally calm Do NOT hit the brakes and don't make any sudden movements with the steering wheel, even if you feel yourself sliding. The best thing to do is to slowly take your foot off the accelerator. Slow down as much as you can without putting yourself in danger of being rear-ended. Try to find a safe and secure location to park your vehicle, such as a parking lot. It is not recommended that you stop on the roadway, including the shoulder. The shoulder of the road can be extremely dangerous!
Make sure all driving inputs are done in slow motion. No sudden movements. Unlike with snow where you can safely navigate through in most cases, when driving on ice, you should find a safe location to park as soon as possible. Ice is nothing to take a chance with. Yes, it's that dangerous!
Beware of ice on bridges and overpasses
We often see those warning signs about ice forming on bridges before the roadway, but since we see them so frequently, we often forget that ice really DOES form faster on bridges and overpasses. This is especially true for black ice. Whether the roadway has been treated or not, black ice can form (or reform) extremely quickly. When driving at or below freezing temperatures, be extremely cautious on bridges and overpasses, especially if they appear to be wet. The wet looking surface may actually be ice.
Article by Drive Safely
Although these tips are practical and could be life-saving, common sense is your first avenue of defense. Don’t drive any vehicle out on the ice when it has been 40 degrees or warmer for more than 2 days!
- Clear, solid ice at least two inches thick is usually sufficient to hold a single person walking on foot. For safety’s sake, wait until the ice is at least three inches thick and go with a friend. Keep a least 50 feet of distance between each other. Ice fishing with several friends and gear requires at least four inches of ice, and snowmobiles and ATV’s five inches.
- Ice will generally be thicker near shore and get thinner as one ventures out. Check ice thickness with an ice spud or auger starting from a few feet from shore and every 10 to 20 feet as one goes towards the middle of the waterway.
- Lake ice is generally stronger than river ice. Springs, lake inlets and outlets, and channels can alter ice thickness.
- Before heading out onto early or newly formed ice, check with a local bait shop, resort owner, or outdoors store regarding ice thickness or known thin spots.
- Ice claws: nail heads are ground off to a point and then covered with corks to prevent injury. The cord, made to the correct length, can be worn inside the jacket with each claw inside a sleeve. Or they can be draped over the shoulder and inside the coat. The wooden dowels and nylon cord will float, so they are accessible in an emergency.
- Whether alone or with a friend on early ice, always carry a couple of large sharpened nails and a length of rope in an easily accessible pocket. The nails or commercially bought ice grabbers can help a person pull themselves out of the water an on to more solid ice. The rope can be thrown to another person for rescue.
- If you are alone and go through the ice, take a few seconds to get over the “cold shock.” Regain your breathing, kick hard and try to swim up onto the ice. If successful, crawl on your hands and knees or roll to more solid ice. Get to the nearest warm place quickly. If your attempts to swim onto the ice area unsuccessful, get as much of your body out of the water and yell for help. Studies show you will have about 30 minutes or more before the body is incapacitated by hypothermia.
- Proper clothing can increase chances of survival should a person break through the ice. A snowmobile type suit if it is zipped can and will trap air and slow the body’s heat loss. Once filled with water, however, insulated suits become heavy and will hinder rescue. Newer model snowmobile suits have flotation material built in and anyone traversing ice should consider purchasing one of these suits. On early ice it is advised to wear a personal flotation device.
- Refrain from driving on ice whenever possible. Traveling in a vehicle, especially early or late in the season, is an accident waiting to happen.
- When driving on ice be prepared to leave the vehicle in a hurry. Unbuckle the seatbelt and have a simple plan of action in case of ice break through. Anglers may want to leave a window open for an easy exit.
- Often vehicles will establish roads from shore to the current fishing hotspots. Repeated vehicle use may cause the ice to weaken. The ice roads may not always be the safest routes.
- When using a gas or liquid heater to warm an ice shack or tent make sure it is properly ventilated with at least two openings, one at the top and one at the bottom of the structure. Any flame eats oxygen so proper ventilation is required.
Common sense is the greatest ally in preventing ice related accidents, and that includes checking ice conditions and preparing oneself before venturing out. Five minutes of checking ice from shore, talking to local authorities or bait shops, and systematic checks while going out on the ice can make the difference between an enjoyable winter experience and a tragedy, he says.
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Information and recommendations are compiled from sources believed to be reliable. The Sheriff’s Office makes no guarantee as to and assumes no responsibility for the correctness, sufficiency or completeness of such information or recommendations. Other or additional safety measures may be required under particular circumstances.