The temperature is dropping and the forecast is for precipitation. Experienced winter drivers want to know: Will the temps stay high enough for cold rain? Drop far enough to bring on snow? Or, in the worst case scenario, will the falling temperature halt right in the middle of the two extremes?
Less experienced drivers may well wonder why middle ground temperatures are worse than way below freezing. Isn’t a bit warmer always better?
In a word, no. When temperatures are too cold for rain, yet too warm for snow, the result is the dreaded "freezing rain." And that means road surfaces will soon be icy, the most hazardous driving condition. Heavier vehicles that offer a real advantage in snowy conditions — such as SUVs or four-wheel drives — actually are at increased risk on icy surfaces. Once a heavy vehicle’s traction is replaced by an uncontrolled skid, the results can be extremely dangerous to life, limb and property.
While the best advice for driving in freezing rain is simply to stay off the road, here are a few tips that will make it a bit safer:
- Be extra cautious.
- Drive as slowly as practical.
- To facilitate slow driving, give yourself plenty of extra time to get to your destination.
- Allow extra space between you and the car in front of you.
- Be patient when encountering salt or sand trucks. Remember they lower the danger, so it's better to follow them than to be in a hurry to get past.
- Install those snow tires! While they will not guarantee perfect traction, they will provide a better grip than regular tread.
- Keep the front defroster and rear defogger running to keep rain from icing over your windows.
- Use a wiper fluid that provides freeze protection to at least -25 degrees. If you use anything less effective in frigid temperatures, the fluid will quickly freeze onto your windows, minimizing, if not eliminating, your ability to see the road and other vehicles clearly.
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