Slick driving conditions across the Commonwealth

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — AAA and Virginia State Police are encouraging Virginians to be careful today when traveling on roadways during today’s nor’easter.

While both organizations advise residents to postpone travel plans and avoid driving when possible, they each have released a list of reminders to help those who have to go out in the inclement weather drive safely.

AAA provides the following safe driving tips for motorists:

  • Watch for black ice. Although it is mostly invisible, pavement with black ice will be a little darker and duller than the rest of the road surface.
  • Use headlights. Increasing your visibility helps you avoid slick and dangerous spots on the road, including standing water, flooding and black ice. Headlights also help others see you.
  • Use extra caution on bridges and overpasses. Bridges and overpasses freeze first and melt last. Therefore, use extra caution as the roadway leading up to the bridge may appear fine but the bridge itself could be a sheet of ice.
  • Slow your speed. Though state police works closely with the Virginia Department of Transportation to identify problem areas on the road during a storm, drivers must still be aware of conditions. Slow your speed to give you more time to safely react and avoid a crash.
  • Travel gently. Drive, turn, and brake slowly. Adjust your speed to the road conditions and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
  • Be extra aware of the traffic ahead. If you see brake lights, fish-tailing cars, sideways cars or emergency flashers, slow down even more.
  • Control the skid. If you are approaching a patch of ice, brake during your approach. Applying pressure to your brakes while on ice will only throw you into a skid. In the event you find your car is skidding, ease off of the accelerator or brake, and steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go.
  • If your car doesn’t have anti-lock brakes, you need to use the following threshold braking technique: Squeeze the brake pedal with your toes, and, when you feel the wheels begin to lock, ease off the pressure slightly and hold it there.
  • Guard against SUV overconfidence. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are great for initial traction and avoiding getting stuck, but once they are moving, they have the same difficulty keeping control and stopping as other vehicles.
  • Never use cruise control. Cruise control is not recommended when ice is on the road as the driver should be in full control of the vehicle at every second.
  • Drive in cleared lanes. Changing lanes unnecessarily puts you at greater risk of hitting a patch of ice between lanes that may cause you to lose control of the vehicle.
  • Buckle Up. Most crashes that occur during inclement weather are caused by vehicles sliding off the road or other vehicles. Wearing your seat belt protects you from being thrown around the inside of your vehicle and suffering serious injury in a crash.
  • Put down your phone. Having to drive in severe snow or rain requires a driver’s full, uninterrupted attention. Do not text and drive or shoot video of the bad conditions while driving, as these actions put you, your passengers and other vehicles at extreme risk of a crash and/or injury.
  • Check Your Vehicle. Make sure your vehicle is in good working order for the conditions. Fill up the tank in advance. Check windshield wipers, windshield wiper fluid, tire tread, battery life, etc.
  • Don’t leave home without a window scraper, blanket, bottled water, snack, cell phone charger and flashlight.

Current conditions, with temperatures hovering at the freezing mark and with a mix and rain and snow falling across Virginia, are perfect for dangerous black ice.

“AAA urges every driver in Virginia to be mindful of possible driving hazards even if they are not seeing large amounts of precipitation as not only can conditions change quickly, but they are currently favorable for very treacherous black ice which is almost invisible to the naked eye after it forms on roadways,” AAA spokesperson Martha Meade said.

Black ice commonly forms on highly shaded areas, infrequently traveled roads, and on bridges and overpasses. In most cases, the ice appears to be the color of wet, dark asphalt, catching drivers’ off-guard and in potentially frightening situations.

“The conditions for this morning’s commute are likely to create black ice, especially on bridges and overpasses, Motorists are encouraged to drive with caution, slow down and increase following distances to at least 10 seconds to allow enough margin of safety between you and other drivers,” Meade advised.

Virginia State Police will have all available troopers and supervisors working in advance of and the duration of the storm as it makes its way across the Commonwealth.

For the latest in road conditions and updates, please call 511 on a cell phone, download the App or go online to the VDOT Virginia Traffic Information Website at

Virginians are advised to only call 911 or #77 on a cell phone in case of emergency. It is essential to keep emergency dispatch lines open for those in serious need of police, fire or medical response.

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