Higher temperatures are not an automatic guarantee of safe roads and carefree driving. In addition to the fact that adhesion decreases as the temperature drops, you also have to watch out for the insidious ice and slush that you can encounter, even if the thermometer in your car reads slightly above zero.

Photo: Autodrom Most

Not only freezing, but temperatures around freezing and even above freezing can bring dangerous road conditions

One of the most common mistakes made by drivers is the assumption that if the air temperature is above zero degrees Celsius, there is no danger of ice. However, the road can still be frozen, and in that case any rain on the road can freeze even at a temperature of three degrees above zero. This is also why modern cars are equipped with a warning light that alerts the driver when the outside temperature drops below four degrees Celsius.

Local ice, which the driver does not expect and which often forms suddenly and in places where no one would expect it, is especially dangerous. It most often appears on bridges and overpasses. A particularly dangerous phenomenon that occurs at temperatures around the freezing point is the so-called black ice. It is a thin translucent layer of ice on the asphalt that creates the impression that the road is only wet.

The driver must therefore be constantly alert and think about where he is going. For example, when crossing from an open area into a forest, it is necessary to take into account that the adhesion of the tires to the road surface will be low, making the car harder to control. In the open space, there is a risk of frost, for example due to cold wind.

Another specific feature of conditions with a temperature around zero can be slush, i.e. a combination of the worst of wet and snow. In addition, it can freeze back, further reducing the grip of the tires. “An aid in recognizing if the road is going to freeze is to monitor the water. That is, how it is sprayed from the wheels of passing cars, or listening to the reflections of water carried by the tires into the wheel arches. The quieter the sound, the more it tightens. It is important not to underestimate the situation,” advise the instructors of safe driving at the Mostec Autodrome.

Photo: Autodrom Most

The noise of the water in the undercarriage can tell you if it is freezing

Therefore, you should adjust both the speed of the car and the speed of steering interventions (the goal is smoothness, sharper interventions can throw the car) and the distance from other cars to the deteriorated conditions. However, proper car shoes are a necessary prerequisite. “You definitely need to change your clothes for the winter. However, even the best winter tire has its limits. In the dry or wet, even if it is around zero, the driver should therefore not behave as if he were driving in the hot summer,” say the Mostec instructors.

Golden tips from experts for safe driving:

  • Ice can form even at temperatures above freezing if the road is frozen.
  • Local ice is especially dangerous in places where the driver does not expect it, it most often appears on bridges and overpasses.
  • A tool that will help to recognize icing is watching the water splashing from the wheels of cars driving in front of us or in the opposite direction; if it freezes outside, the water sprays less or not at all.
  • Do not overestimate the effectiveness of winter tires. Even when it’s around freezing, they don’t work any better than summer pattern coats.