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Driving in Snow and Ice: What Every Colorado Student Should Know

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driving in snow

Whether you grew up in Colorado or have never even seen snow before, it’s probably time for a review of safe winter driving habits.

Drivers in Colorado often face adverse conditions such as blizzards, freezing rain and the ever-dreaded black ice.

All the experts agree: stay home during these conditions, if you have the choice.

“Don’t go out until the snow plows and sanding trucks have had a chance to do their work,” weather.com said in their driving safety tips.

If conditions or visibility get bad while you are already on the road, find somewhere to pull over and hole up until the conditions improve, Mike Clark, a Pueblo driving instructor, suggested.

Sometimes, everyone has to drive when the weather is not ideal. Even then, you can take precautions to be prepared for these conditions.

Many winter safety precautions can be taken before you ever get out on the roads, Clark said.

“Vehicle maintenance is important,” Clark said. “Keep your car well-maintained for snow. Carry snow chains, and have A-rated tires with good tread.”

Keeping emergency supplies in your car is another safety precaution which Clark recommends.

“Carry plenty of blankets, gloves, a coat and things to keep you from getting hypothermia if you do happen to get stranded.  Also carry enough water and food in your car to last for at least 24 hours,” Clark said.

Practice driving on ice, Timothy Sutton, a Colorado State University Pueblo student who grew up driving on snow and ice, suggested.

“Find an empty parking lot covered in ice or snow and practice. Have fun doing donuts and figure out your safe stopping distance,” Sutton said.

No matter how much you prepare beforehand, there is still the matter of actually driving on slick roads. There are many things you can do to drive more safely on these icy roads.

The most important thing when driving on slick roads is to not be in a hurry.

“Be patient,” Clark said. “Drive slowly, at least 20 miles per hour under the posted speed limit. Also, make sure you keep 5-8 car lengths behind the car in front of you so that you don’t rear-end them,” Clark said.

Slowing down earlier than normal is also important when driving on slick roads.Whenever possible, slow down by letting your foot off the accelerator rather than by using your breaks, Clark said.

When you do need to use your breaks, use them early and use them gently, Sutton suggests.

No matter how many safety tips you follow, you could still end up in a situation where your car is sliding.

“If you start sliding, turn your wheels to the direction of the slide,” Sutton said.

Be careful not to let warm winter weather lull you into a false sense of not needing to be prepared for icy roads.

“Colorado usually has snow and ice on the roads this time of year, so you will at some point be driving in bad conditions. You need to be able to feel confident when driving because when driving in snow or ice bad situations can happen anytime. They come out of nowhere, and they come fast,” Sutton said.