Freezing slush, rain could make for 'ice rink' conditions on roads

EUGENE, Ore. -- A jackknifed truck hauling a 30-foot camp trailer blocked the intersection of 28th and Chambers/Almaden after the driver hit a patch of black ice in the area, Eugene Police said.

Officials said they ask drivers to avoid the area while public works tries to clear the truck and trailer from the intersection.

With snow melting and refreezing overnight and freezing rain possibly in Thursday's forecast, Eugene Police said they would like to remind drivers  to be very careful on the roadways.

What was a regular driving surface and appropriate speed one moment can become an ice-skating rink the next, especially on overpasses and bridges. Many crashes occur when drivers are going the speed limit as temperatures drop and roads turn slippery.

Cold or rainy weather driving tips from Eugene Police:

  • Slow down
  • Leave plenty of driving distance, don't accelerate quickly and don't brake abruptly
  • Drive defensively and cautiously – your eyes should be looking ahead and down the road so you can see conditions and traffic and will be able to react appropriately and calmly
  • Even if you have a green light, check to see you are safe proceeding through the intersection. There may be vehicles sliding into the intersection, without the ability to stop due to road conditions and unsafe driving 
  • If you have an outside temperature gauge in your car, check it from time to time (These gauges are inexpensive and available at stores locally)
  • Drive as though you can't rely on your brakes
  • Be aware that road conditions can change quickly as the temperature drops
  • The surface on overpasses and bridges freeze faster so be cautious
  • Remove all ice on windshields, windows, headlights and tail lights prior to driving to ensure adequate visibility, and make sure the vehicle’s windshield is defrosted
  • Carry chains or traction devices if it is going to snow
  • Check your tire pressure. It should be at least at the level recommended by the manufacturer. As the temperature drops, so does tire pressure 
  • Turn headlights on
  • If you crash, carefully evaluate the situation from inside your vehicle. Don't immediately get out because it is possible other vehicles might also be crashing near you. Don't stand between moving traffic and your vehicle. Use a flare, hazard lights or other signaling device to warn other drivers of the crash 
  • Four-wheel drive vehicles and all-wheel drive vehicles are great at accelerating, but in snow or ice that doesn't help you stop or turn. 
  • Don’t use cruise control in freezing, near freezing, or rainy conditions. The powered wheels can lose traction. In freezing weather, be especially careful on overpasses and bridges.

More tips from the Oregon Department of Transportation:

Motorists should use caution Thursday if freezing rain makes the roads slick in Northwest Oregon.

The severity and location of freezing rain, if any, is uncertain. But ice on the road could create problems for travelers in Portland, the Willamette Valley, the Coast Range and the Columbia Gorge. 

Should freezing rain develop, ODOT will deploy, as appropriate, the tools in its winter arsenal, including plows, sand and deicer.

Travelers need to stay up to date on the weather forecast and road conditions and practice safe driving. Here are some tips for travelers should an icy winter storm strike.

  • No one can safely drive on ice. If roads get icy, consider not driving or delaying your trip until the weather warms and the ice thaws.
  • If caught on an icy road, slow down, allow plenty of stopping distance in case you or the car ahead of you lose control and watch out for pedestrians and bicyclists because stopping distances are so much longer.
  • ODOT sand trucks, plows and deicer trucks can’t clear roads clogged with traffic. The more traffic stays off the road, the quicker roads can be treated.
  • Consider leaving the driving to the professionals and taking mass transit. Consider walking, riding a bike, working from home or taking the day off until the storm passes and the roads clear.
  • Don’t abandon a vehicle in heavy traffic. Abandoned vehicles delay emergency responders, prevent plows and other maintenance equipment from getting through and delay traffic even further. Remain with your vehicle and call for help. If you leave your car, it will get towed.

Driving on ice is never a safe choice. The safest thing to do is stay off the road.