Driving safely on icy roads

Emma Blickensderfer

Although this winter season has been more mild than some in the past, it is still crucial to be aware of road conditions when driving.

One of the dangers to look out for is black ice.

Tyler Roelfs, manager at En-Tire Car Care, said black ice looks just like regular pavement, which is why it is so dangerous.

“If it’s freezing temperatures, the moisture in the air can freeze to the surface and look like dry pavement,” Roelfs said. “[Drivers] just need to slow down and take precaution.”

Roelfs said he found himself as a passenger of an accident because of black ice and that even the most experienced drivers can end up in a bad situation because of it.

Dustin Tapp, operations manager of Central Iowa Towing and Recovery, said to prevent car accidents, drivers need to pay attention to the road.

“Keep plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front of you,” he said. “Put the phone down.”

He also said that if drivers choose to get behind the wheel in inclement weather, they should give themselves plenty of time and be prepared for all situations.

“Make sure you are prepared to be stranded or stuck in a ditch,” he said. “It’s not a bad idea to let someone else know your route as well. If the unthinkable happens, it’s always better to be prepared.”

Another important aspect to driving on ice is the quality of your tires. Roelfs recommends that the tire’s tread depth has a thickness of 0.125 inches when dealing with winter driving. The legal limit is 0.0625.

He also recommended to put the newest tires on the rear end because most people do not buy all four tires at once, and to move the old tires to the front. This is because front tires are easier to correct if the front starts going out of control. But if the rear tires lose control, it is significantly more difficult for a driver to correct the rear end.

If car owners are skeptical about the condition of their tires, Roelfs said most auto shops do it for free.

A way to ensure your tire depth is sufficient is to use snow tires.

Lucy Holms, junior in communication studies, grew up in Des Moines and went to school in Colorado for a year. No matter where she has been, she always makes sure she puts on snow tires toward the end of November.

When weather conditions are bad, it is important to stay on safe roads.

Holms, a commuter student, will take the main road home for as long as she can. Even though she doesn’t like driving on the interstate, she will when side roads are icy.

Roelfs also said to stay on roads that see a lot of traffic because the heat from the vehicles will keep it safer, and those roads are cleared first.

“I-35 is usually in pretty good shape as well as in [Ames],” he said. “Stay away from country highways and gravel roads.