Driving instructor warns commuters not to be over-confident on ice

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POSTED: Friday, January 24, 2014 - 6:00am

UPDATED: Friday, January 24, 2014 - 6:04am

After a night of snow, sleet, and sub-freezing temperatures, road conditions may be dangerous as you leave for work this morning.

People who live in south Louisiana like to think they can drive successfully in anything, because they are used to hurricanes and thunderstorms.

But a veteran driving instructor believes it is that confidence that could get a lot of drivers in trouble.

"We're ready for the rain, we can handle three feet of rain, that's no problem," Terry Knight said, "but when we get a little ice or a little snow, it really does cause us problems, because we're not familiar with that situation."

Knight runs Trinity Driving School, and has taught driving courses for more than 40 years. To drive in wintry weather, he said that having proper tires is very important. Drivers can use what he called, "the Lincoln Test." All they need is a penny.

"You can insert that penny in the tread of that tire, and if his head is completely inside the tread, then you know your tires are in pretty good shape," he stated.

Snow and sleet are generally not as big a concern when they are falling as when they turn to ice and stay on the road. Bridges and overpasses are the first things to freeze, because cold air is both above and below the road. Knight recommended giving yourself, and the cars around you, plenty of space.

"From (normally) three seconds following distance between you and the car in front, increase that to five or six seconds," he suggested.

And if you do hit some ice and start to skid, you might have to ignore your instincts.

"It's a scary thing," Knight noted, "and you want to do something, you want to drive. Don't drive!

"Steer the car in the direction you want it to go in, and just allow the car to stop, and then proceed on."

Drivers will want to give themselves extra time in the morning, first to let their cars heat up so they can completely defrost the windows and mirrors. But also, they should allow more time to get where they are going.

"People in south Louisiana are too aggressive to start with when it comes to their driving," he said. "That's why we have such a [bad] driving record here."Additionally, some road closures could add more time to the morning commute. Interstate 110 was closed overnight between I-10 and Airline Highway, and Highway 10 was shut down between West Feliciana and Pointe Coupee parishes.

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