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In the middle of a blizzard or ice storm, winter driving habits automatically kick in for many of us. The low visibility, snow-covered roads, falling precipitation and fleets of road maintenance vehicles are pretty obvious tip-offs that it’s time to turn off cruise control, slow down and drive extra cautiously. Or get off the road altogether.

But, snow and ice can be just as dangerous when you least expect it and in very small amounts. A “patchy” road can spell disaster as an unsuspecting driver suddenly hits ice or snow and loses control of their car. When there’s not impending storm, paying attention to the forecast and road condition reports might seem less important, but when it comes to safe winter travel, drivers need to be vigilant in order to avoid a Missouri car accident or Illinois car crash.

Even a very small amount of moisture on the road can produce slippery conditions. And a temperature shift from above freezing to just below freezing can turn previously safe roads into icy surfaces even without additional precipitation. In these situations, a road that looks damp can have a very thin layer of ice that makes it just as dangerous as driving in an ice storm.

It is necessary to be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and roads that are less frequently traveled and maintained. These are places where moisture will turn to ice the fastest. And, above-freezing temperatures are not a guarantee of ice-free roads. Portions of the road that remain in the shade—due to buildings or overpasses or trees—can stay frozen even if the rest of the road is safe for travel. These conditions are perfect for causing unexpected sliding and car accidents.

It is these unexpected patches of ice and snow that can catch drivers off guard when they least expect it, causing tires to lose traction and vehicles to suddenly slip out of your control. Choosing to accelerate or brake at the wrong time—i.e., when your tires are on ice—can cause the same result.

For those of us living in the wintry Midwest with unpredictable weather patterns and the temperature constantly shifting from above freezing to below freezing, it’s wise to put our winter driving habits to practice on a daily basis. Even when we’re not in the blizzard of the century and instead just have a few flurries or even a sunny day.

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