Even people who take pride in being under control in every situation can easily lose control of their vehicles on icy or snow covered roads when they drive too fast for conditions.
"When there's ice, snow and slick spots on roadways or when visibility is reduced because of bad weather, driving at the posted speed limit might actually be too fast for conditions," says Wisconsin State Patrol Captain Nick Scorcio of the Northeast Region-Fond du Lac Post. "The speed limit is based on a dry roadway and good driving conditions. You might not be able to stop or control your vehicle at that speed on a slippery road or during hazardous weather."
Slowing down when driving conditions deteriorate is not just sound advice-it's also the law.
It is illegal to drive at speeds that exceed what is reasonable and prudent under existing road conditions. Drivers are required to adjust their speeds to take into account both the actual and potential hazards due to weather, highway conditions or other traffic.
A violation of this Wisconsin law costs $213.10 with four demerit points added to the driver's record. A second offense within a 12-month period costs $263.50 with four additional points.
"The slogan 'Snow Means Slow' also applies to four-wheel drive and other heavy-duty vehicles, which need ample room to stop on slippery roads," says Captain Scorcio. "It's too late to change your driving behavior after your vehicle is in the ditch or involved in a crash. If you drive too fast for conditions, you likely could end up paying a couple hundred dollars for a traffic ticket in addition to your towing and vehicle repair bills."
To better assist drivers in winter, traffic experts offer the following advice:
- Clear snow and ice from vehicle. To improve visibility, remove all snow and ice from the hood, roof, trunk, turn signals, tail lights and headlights.
- Go slow in the snow. Posted speed limits are set for ideal road and weather conditions. Slow down when visibility and road conditions are impaired.
- Don't brake hard. On ice and snow, use "threshold" or "squeeze" braking when driving a vehicle without anti-lock brakes. Apply the brakes firmly to a point just short of lock-up, then ease off the brake pedal slightly. For vehicles with anti-lock brakes, continuous, firm braking is recommended.
- Anticipate danger. Be ready for ice on bridges, hidden lane markings, stalled cars and poor visibility. Adjust your speed, increase following distance between vehicles.
- Put the lid on skids. Ease off the accelerator and don't lock up the brakes. Carefully steer in the direction you want your vehicle to go and straighten the wheel as soon as the car beings to go in the desired direction.
Experts also urge motorists to prepare their vehicles for the winter season, and know how to react if stranded or lost on the road.
Motorists should always carry an emergency kit in the vehicle, containing a flashlight, flares or reflective triangle, distress sign, telephone change or cell phone, first aid supplies and some basic tools.
Motorist should also monitor dashboard gauges and warning lights. If differences in handling are noticed, have the car checked.