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As Colorado citizens understand, the weather there changes in an instant, and that’s literal. In a single day, certain rural and urban areas of Colorado can experience sunshine, clouds, rain, sleet, snow, and its inverse. Sometimes these weather anomalies occur within a matter of a few hours.

Because of the irregular weather patterns and the changing of the season, now is a good time to re-educate ourselves on safe winter driving practices in two specific situations. These situations include driving on black ice and what to do when coming across a deer in the middle of the road.

The invisible deer

I use the term ‘invisible’ because drivers often don’t see the deer, or whichever large animal is standing in the middle of the road until it’s upon them and swerving out of the way becomes much more difficult. It’s more likely to come across a deer on the road between October and January as that’s a deer’s mating season. Some tips to increase your chancing of seeing the deer before it’s too late include:

  • Keeping an eye out for the shines of the deer’s eyes
  • Turning on your high beams when the oncoming traffic is clear to enhance your view of the road and
  • Drive in the middle lane if you’re driving on a multi-lane highway to better your chances of avoiding the deer if it’s safe

When you approach a deer, and they have that “deer in the headlights look’, begin to slow down and cautiously drive around them. It’s essential to slow down gently. If you don’t have time to veer, don’t. Slamming on your brakes or abruptly swerving out of the way could cause you to lose control of the vehicle, flip it, or hit a different object or vehicle.

Black ice

Black ice does not look like ice. It looks like water and has a matte (dull) unshiny look. On the other hand, regular ice has a more glossy (shiny) finish. The problem with black ice is that it often forms during late night or early morning hours and victimizes drivers when they are the most vulnerable.

If you’re driving along and suddenly seem to have very little control, there is a good chance you’ve encountered black ice. Stay calm, drive slow, and don’t hit the brakes unless absolutely necessary. If hitting the brakes is a must, slow down gently as much as possible before acting as braking on black ice, even at slow speeds, can send the driver into a tailspin as their rear wheels lose traction control.

If you can, shift your vehicle into a gear with the most stability or four-wheel drive.