When snow falls in Montana, covers the roads, melts and then refreezes, ice forms. Ice accumulating on the roadways can make your daily commute treacherous. Icy pavement is responsible for 3% of all vehicle crashes and 13% of all weather-related crashes, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Montana sees 300 inches of annual snowfall in the western half of the state and less in the eastern half. If you have to drive on snow or ice, learn what to do to help prevent a car crash if your vehicle starts to slide on ice.
Ice is an extremely dangerous weather condition. When your vehicle hits a patch of ice, your first instinct might be to hit your brakes. Resist this urge, however, as it could lock your vehicle up and make sliding worse. This is especially true if you have an anti-lock brake system. Instead of hitting the brake, lift your foot from the gas to decelerate at a slower pace. You should only tap the brake – slowly and steadily – once your vehicle has left the ice and the tires have gripped the snow or road again.
Jerking the wheel is another reason people get into accidents when they drive over ice in Montana. Jerking the wheel could make you lose control of the vehicle and drive off the road. Your vehicle may careen off the highway and into a ditch or dart into oncoming traffic. Overcorrecting can also send your car into a tailspin. Do not jerk the steering wheel when you hit ice, even if your vehicle slides off-kilter. Instead, steer gently and in a controlled manner when your vehicle starts to slide on ice.
If you notice the front of your vehicle start to slide, taking your foot off the gas should be enough to slow your car and give you control over the vehicle. If not, lightly tap the brake until you are back in control. In situations where your back wheels are sliding on ice, lift your foot from the brake and gently direct your vehicle in the same direction it is sliding on the ice. Do not try to turn your wheel in the opposite direction, as this could cause the car to spin. Turn in the direction of the slide while decelerating until you have control of the vehicle again.
Black ice is deadly for drivers in cold-weather states. Black ice is ice that forms on a black asphalt road, making it almost invisible to drivers. The clear ice blends in with the road so well that most drivers do not notice its presence until they lose control of their vehicles. Black ice can form when snow melts during the day and refreezes at night, creating clear ice. It can also happen when rain wets the road and freezes solid, or when a heavy fog freezes on the roadway. Bridges and overpasses are especially prone to developing black ice, as cold air can circulate around the road’s surfaces.
You may be able to spot black ice to better prepare yourself to drive safely over it if you know where it forms. Pay special attention to spots under bridges and overpasses, as well as shady areas. Water and black ice may accumulate at the bottoms of hills or dips as well. Less-traveled roads in rural areas are more likely to have black ice than roads with heavy traffic. Black ice forms at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, so be especially careful while driving if the weather has reached this temperature recently. Reduce your speed, hold firmly onto the steering wheel and prepare to safely react if your car starts to slide.