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Cold snap grips SA: How to drive in ice and snow

2017-08-18 07:52

Image: Twitter / Snow Report SA

Johannesburg - A weather warning has been issued across parts of South Africa cautioning drivers to be aware of icy conditions and even snow.

While drivers in other parts of the world may put their snow tyres on, the rarity of snow here makes this highly unlikely.

PICS: Winter wonderland in SA with snow

If you are expecting snowfall or if you are planning to take a drive to catch a glimpse of the snow, here are some tips to keep in mind, courtesy of the MD of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert:

  • Defensive driving will help you avoid a dangerous situation on our roads.
  • Check that your tyres are properly inflated.  
  • Ensure your anti-freeze is adequately topped up.
  • Gently test your brakes to judge how slippery the road is.
  • Do not use cruise control when driving on slippery surfaces.
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly to maintain traction and avoid skidding.
  • Drive slowly and give yourself more time: it takes more time to accelerate, decelerate and stop.
  • Increase your following distance to eight to 10 seconds.
  • Avoid stopping where possible and rather start moving while still rolling as there is less resistance to stopping.
  • Accelerating up a hill can cause skidding. Rather gain speed before the hill and slow down when you reach the top.
  • Never stop halfway up the hill.
  • Switch your headlights to dim. Do not use fog lights as it makes it difficult for oncoming cars to see.
  • If you start to spin stop accelerating and let the car slow naturally. Do not brake as it will extend the skid. If you start spinning, steer in the direction of the spin until it is safe to straighten.
 • Avoid driving habits which are dangerous in normal conditions: distracted, fatigued and drunken driving.

Black ice

Many areas may experience sleet rather than full snowfall. This can create an even more dangerous situation on the roads, in the form of black ice. This is a thin layer of transparent ice on the road which forms when sleet or rain freezes as it hits the ground.

It is very difficult to see and you can be at its mercy once you hit it. If you find yourself on black ice:
  • Always be alert for black ice: it looks like glossy, slightly wet patches on the road.
  • Do not hit the brakes and focus on keeping the steering straight.
  • Lift your foot off the accelerator.
  • Be careful of not over-steering. 


Arrive Alive  shares the following advice:

If your rear wheels skid...

Take your foot off the accelerator.
Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they're sliding right, steer right.
If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control.
If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.
If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse - this is normal.

If your front wheels skid...

Take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don't try to steer immediately.
As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in "drive" or release the clutch, and accelerate gently.

If you get stuck...

Do not spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper.
Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way.
Use a light touch on the gas, to ease your car out.
Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car.
Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels, to help get traction.
Try rocking the vehicle. (Check your owner's manual first - it can damage the transmission on some vehicles.) Shift from forward to reverse, and back again. Each time you're in gear, give a light touch on the gas until the vehicle gets going.


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