Do the same thing for the vehicle you take to the trailhead. One of the greatest dangers of driving in those seasons is black ice. Black ice is clear water that’s frozen onto blacktop, making a slick patch that’s hard to see before you hit it. You should be just as prepared for that as you are for the outdoor adventure.
The most treacherous spots are areas that look dry but are darker than surrounding pavement; low-lying areas that may have caught some run-off water; and bridges and underpasses, which tend to freeze before the rest of the highway. Black ice can occur when the temperature drops to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, above freezing. As the temperature drops, the ice spreads.
Make sure your tires have the traction you’ll need; use snow tires if necessary. Winterize your car like you would your clothing. If you have four-wheel drive, use it, but don’t assume it will save you from black ice. Slow down, and don’t tailgate – that’s just asking for an accident. Anticipate traffic lights and exits, and start to gradually slow down before you would in better weather. Keep an emergency kit (think car first aid) in your car, with items like a folding shovel, sand, and a flashlight.
If you hit black ice, slow down but do NOT hit your brakes quickly or hard, or you’ll skid. Take your foot off the accelerator and change gears to neutral. Try to maneuver smoothly, and if your car spins, turn the steering wheel in the direction of the spin. If you skid, turn in the direction you want to go. If you have anti-lock brakes, don’t pump them; the system should kick in and let you slow down and steer.
With some planning, you can survive black ice after your wilderness adventure. Care for your vehicle like you do for yourself.