Icy roads are a regular occurrence in much of the State of New York, particularly Upstate where frigid conditions can persist for weeks. Though plows and a healthy dose of road salt will clear the roads over time, being prepared to drive in difficult conditions is important. One of the best ways to prepare for icy roads is to purchase a vehicle that performs well in those conditions, and consider purchasing aftermarket upgrades that improve the performance.
Different vehicles have different suspensions and drivetrains. One of the big questions when looking for a vehicle that will perform well on ice is to be aware of the differences in how many tires the car uses to power the vehicle. Options include:
- Two wheel drive, either front or rear powered, where only two wheels provide the torque
- 4 wheel drive (4WD), where all four tires are capable of providing torque
- All wheel drive (AWD), where all four tires are capable of providing torque
Of these, the two wheel drive options provide the least performance in snow and icy conditions. If the car hits a patch of ice with the two tires capable of generating force, it may become stuck as the tires spin on the slick surface. Two wheel drive vehicles also brake with only two wheels, decreasing braking performance in icy conditions.
With AWD and 4WD, the back tires or front tires can continue to gain traction even as the front wheels spin, or vice versa, improving braking drastically. Drivers of tehse vehicles should be aware, however, that performance while turning on icy roads is often similar to two wheel drive vehicles. Still, individuals likely to drive in icy conditions might consider investing in a vehicle with either 4 wheel drive or all wheel drive.
After-market solutions also exist to improve performance in wintry conditions. Of these, chains are the most common, though certain areas restrict the use of these devices because they may do additional damage to roadways. Chains also lower the fuel economy of a vehicle and often restrict driving to low speeds, but low speeds should already be maintained in icy conditions.
If you have been in a motor vehicle accident in icy conditions, determining whether or not the other driver took the weather conditions into account is important. Too many people continue to drive too fast and brake too late, even when the slickness of the roads clearly make such behaviors even more dangerous than usual. Please, consider consulting with an experienced attorney regarding your case.