Driving on Snow vs. Ice: What You Should Know

          Snow and ice are considered to be one in the same for many people, but in reality they are certainly different when it comes to driving.  Understanding what your driving conditions are and how to stay safe while driving is the most important knowledge any Ohio driver can possess during the winter months. 

How to keep control on a snowy road

Know how to keep control of your vehicle during poor weather conditions


         Snow is naturally formed by climatic conditions and fall from the sky as snow flakes.  It typically has to be 38 degrees or lower for snow to fall and around 32 degrees for snow to stay frozen.   When snow sits on top of the road, it adds a loose, slippery layer that your tires may spin on top of instead of keeping traction on the road.  Snow tires are designed to combat this with grooves that push the snow out from under your tires and allow your tires to keep traction on the road.  If there is too much snow to push from under the tire, your vehicles weight will compact the snow and allow some traction but it will most certainly be less traction than the road would provide.  So when you’re driving in snow, here are some tips to keep you in control:

 Ease up on the gas and brakes: A burnout happens when there is too much torque that the tires can’t keep traction, and when there is snow on the ground, it is far easier to lose traction.  Sudden starts and stops will send you sliding so giving yourself more room to stop and easing up on both pedals will help.

 Turn with care: If you have 4×4 or AWD, your vehicle will outperform most FWD and RWD vehicles in a straight line, but turning is slightly different.  When you turn, you’re requiring the tires to redirect the vehicle and at least one of those two tires needs to have traction.  This means that slower corners will keep you from landing in the ditch. 

 Snow builds up: Snow has the ability to build on top of itself, the road, the lawn, and even on ice.  This means that when you only see snow, you don’t know what is under it, including pot holes and hazards.   For this reason alone, driving on snow takes extra attention and you don’t want to be distracted at all. 


             Ice comes about when the temperature rapidly drops and water freezes creating ice.  Usually this is done around night time when the temperature drops or on windy days.  Unlike snow, ice can be hard to see because it will look just like water, and sometimes black ice can occur making it near impossible to see as it blends in with the road.  Ice tires allow for your vehicle to keep traction because it has “spikes” that digs into the ice, but without something that will grab onto the ice, there is little to no traction when it comes to ice.  Here are some tips to keep control on ice:

 Keep an eye out:  The best defense to a driver is to know what is in front of them, and spotting ice on the road is paramount.  Since there is little steering and traction on ice, it is best to just roll across the ice until you get past the ice.   This means you need to be heading he direction you want to go and the speed because adjustments won’t be likely.

 Avoid dramatic maneuvers:  It’s easy to keep turning the wheel farther and farther on ice since it isn’t responding, but if your vehicle is going straight and gains traction with your wheel all the way turned, you could be looking at a spin-out.  This can happen on snow as well, but much more common on ice.

 Visibility:  Snow is easy to remove from your vehicle, but ice can be much harder.  For this reason, many drivers will just drive with ice on their windshield while they’re waiting for the ice to defrost.  This can be extremely dangerous because if there is ice on your vehicle, it is likely on the road as well, and ice on your windshield could prevent you from seeing ice on the road.  When if comes to poor weather conditions, visibility is a must so take the time to defrost your vehicle and scrap off all your windows.  

             The main thing to remember is you will see snow falling and sticking to the ground but ice comes from water freezing due to temperature changes.  Also, snow gives some traction but not a lot, while ice doesn’t give much traction at all.  Lastly, ice can form on roads under the snow if the snow was melting prior to building up on the roads, so when in doubt, drive a little slower, take your time, clean off your vehicle and make sure you have good tires during our an Ohio winter.  


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