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6 Things You Should Know Before Driving On Ice


driving on ice
6 Things You Should Know Before Driving On Ice. Photo via Flickr Creative Commons

6 Things You Should Know Before Driving On Ice

When I was traveling full-time in my Airstream, we simply didn’t drive on ice and snow. We kept a careful eye on the weather and left town before storms swept in. I learned to drive in Alaska, so I’m no stranger to driving on ice and snow, but to my mind, it just isn’t worth the risk.

All that said, if you absolutely need to go out in your RV in icy conditions, or if it’s an adventure you are passionate about, then take the following advice to heart.

1. Driving on ice is dangerous

Remember, even if you are skilled at driving in winter conditions, the other drivers on the road may be completely clueless, so they are a danger you have almost no control over. According to the US Department of Transportation: each year nearly 1,200 people die, and more than 100,000 are injured in accidents on icy roads.

While sometimes risky, winter camping can be very rewarding.

2. You need snow tires and/or chains

Snow tires are a must-have for driving an RV out in the ice and snow. They don’t come cheap, but they provide excellent traction both on ice and snow. You need to make sure they are in good condition and the tread is clear and deep. You want them on any wheel that has either breaking or power (which should be all of them).

Chains are for special circumstances. They work best in deep snow and on sheer ice. They are often required for mountain passes when the snow is deep. They are also good for emergencies. If you get caught in a storm by surprise they can get you by. They are not a substitute for good snow tires.

driving on ice
These snow tires are perfect for driving on ice, with deep angled treads

3. Take it slow and steady

Driving on ice safely is like driving in slow motion.

  • Accelerate gradually to maintain traction.
  • Break slowly to avoid a skid.
  • Turn slowly to avoid losing control.
  • Take turns as wide and as slow as you can. 

4. Keep as much distance as possible from other drivers

When driving on ice, you want as much room for error as possible. No matter your skill or precautions, the ice is unpredictable, and losing control is always a possibility for you and for other drivers. The more distance between you and other vehicles, the less likely that losing control means catastrophe. 

driving on ice
If you are really lucky, you will have the winter roads to yourself

5. Momentum matters

When driving on ice and snow, momentum is very important to keep in mind. A vehicle on ice will often want to keep going in the direction it is already traveling. Trying to change that too quickly can result in a loss of control.

That said, momentum can be your ally, especially when you need to go up a hill. When approaching a hill you may want to build up a little speed to carry you up. Trying to accelerate up the hill can result in spinning tires and a loss of control, so let the momentum do that work for you. 

6. Keep your tank full and your clothes warm

When driving in freezing temperatures, you should always be prepared to get stuck during your journey. This could happen because you wisely decide to wait out a storm, or because of an accident. In any case, you want to have fuel in your tank to run the heater, and you want warm clothes in case you can’t or if you need to work outside the vehicle.

This is one area where RV drivers have a big advantage, they are typically well prepared to spend an extended time in their vehicle!

For more tips on driving on ice, check out this video from Helpful DIY on Youtube:

You may also want to consider The Dangers Of Driving On Wet Leaves.

Sigfried Trent

Sigfried Trent (also known as Hitch) travels full time with his beloved wife Anne. Together they roamed America for 3 years, Japan for 2, and have set their sights on Europe.

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