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Ice Safety Tips: Maintaining and Navigating Icy Pathways

In many parts of the country, winter just doesn't feel like winter until that first snowfall. Trees blanketed in white, snowmen, and icicles all lend to a picturesque winter landscape. But a less romantic reality hits when you and your family have to brave icy walkways or roads to get to your destination. The following tips can assist with safely navigating potentially treacherous ice in your path.

Safely Maintaining Icy Pathways

After shoveling excess snow from walkways or driveways, the most common practice for removing remaining ice and preventing dangerous ice slicks is to spread salt on the pathway. Snow salt, or rock salt, is recommended and works well. Magnesium chloride deicer works in a similar way, acting as a catalyst to melt ice. However, salt can be hard on the environment, affecting nearby plants, damaging concrete over time, irritating pet paws, and marring carpets and floors if tracked indoors. Following are a few relatively inexpensive, more eco-friendly alternatives to increase traction on icy pathways:

  • Sand
  • Bird seed
  • Baking soda
  • Fireplace wood ash

To further protect yourself from slip-and-fall injury, practice caution, pay attention to the ground around you, and wear shoes with good traction/grip in the soles. You can even purchase attachments to place over your shoes, such asYakTrax® ice traction devices.

Ice is also a concern away from home, and property managers and corporate safety/security directors take ice safety very seriously. Inform security officers or security services staff of any identified ice dangers so that security solutions can be implemented before any injuries occur.

Driving Safely on Icy Roads

Avoid driving on ice if possible, especially at night and/or during a snowfall. If you must drive in icy conditions, be extremely cautious, keep your headlights on for improved visibility, and be aware of obstacles around you and of the capabilities of your own vehicle. If you anticipate driving through challenging conditions, it is a good idea to practice winter driving skills in an empty parking lot to get to know your vehicle response better and to hone your personal response skills. Keep the following tips in mind for increased safety.

Winter Driving Tips

  • Winterize your car for optimum visibility and performance in icy/snowy conditions. Ensure wiper blades, headlights, and anti-icing fluid are well-maintained. Keep windows clean and apply a water-shedding product such as Rain-X® to the outside of windows and mirrors. Install snow tires on your vehicle for better traction when routinely driving in snow and icy environments.
  • When driving on icy roads, allow at least three times more space than normally recommended between you and the car in front of you and drive at reduced speed. Be especially cautious on bridges, overpasses, and infrequently travelled roads, where you are more likely to encounter slick ice.
  • Avoid using cruise control or overdrive on icy roads. It is important to maintain personal control of the vehicle for quicker response in unpredictable road conditions.
  • When braking, apply the brakes as gently as possibly to avoid skidding on ice, and ease off the brake if your vehicle's wheels start to lock.
  • If you do start to skid, pay attention to which set of wheels are skidding. If the rear wheels skid, take your foot off the accelerator, and steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. Steer into the skid - this means if your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they're sliding right, steer right. Avoid over steering, however; as your vehicle compensates, you may start to skid in the other direction and have to steer left and right a few times to get the vehicle completely under control.
  • In a rear wheel skid, standard brakes should be gently pumped to regain traction, but if you have an anti-lock brake system (ABS), STOMP and HOLD the brake, do not pump the brakes. You should feel pulses in the pedal or hear the system working; this is normal. When it happens, ease up on the brake pedal slightly, until you feel pulsing only once per second and your car starts to regain control.
  • If your front wheels skid, release the gas pedal and shift the transmission to neutral, but don't adjust your steering immediately. The skid will slow the vehicle, and traction should return. As you start to feel traction, steer in the direction you want to go, and shift the transmission back to drive or release the clutch and accelerate gently.

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