Friday, 22 February 2013

Driving in freezing rain

For those of us who have been driving in the great white north for most of our lives, winter driving conditions, while they cause us to make slight modifications in our driving behaviours and routines, don't usually cause us consternation. But if there's one condition that shakes the confidence of seasoned and not-so-seasoned winter drivers alike, it's freezing rain. Freezing rain is particularly dangerous because, unlike snow, you have no traction with the ice that immediately forms when it hits the ground. Moreover, it's hard for road maintenance crews to be proactive about eliminating that hazard: they need to wait for the ice to land before they can salt. How can you protect yourself from the dangers of driving in freezing rain? Here are some suggestions:

Change your plans. If the trip you're about to make can be canceled or postponed, this really is your best course of action.

Understand the extend of the conditions. Unlike icy patches that form on roads and highways as a result of melt that refreezes, or even unlike black ice, freezing rain is not confined to patches of slipperiness: it will cover the entire expanse of the region that is affected. If you must drive in these conditions, it's important for you to know that you're not going to get relief from the ice; your brakes will have little control in this situation.

Get stranded. Most people, if they are not in their homes when inclement weather strikes, usually figure that it's time to rush back before things get really bad. This is actually not advisable with freezing rain. Once it starts, it's bad. You are better off waiting (if you can) where you are until your county or municipality has had a chance to salt the roads.

Get clean. Unlike the light frost that you may be used to scraping from your car in the mornings, the ice that you'll find on your vehicle will be thick, and will require a lot of effort to remove. On top of that, if the freezing rain is still coming down, anything you clear off will get replaced almost instantly with a fresh fall. To combat this, get your car warm before you start cleaning—especially the windshield and the back window.

No brakes. When you are driving, rely on your brakes as little as possible, since it is unlikely that they will work. Driving safely will now be a matter of being meticulous about the speed you are driving at.

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