A little clue to look for when traveling toward icy conditions.

Living in areas of the US, with snow and ice during winter, drivers learn how to cope with freezing temperatures and bad road conditions.

In my job I will travel through states that don’t get much in the way of a freeze followed by a state that does have severe winter conditions. Sometimes in the same day.

I will let you in on a little secret that can make your travel safer and let you know when to start looking for a place to get off the road.

The secret is in the mirrors of big trucks.

If you want to know what is ahead of you on the highways you know to look at the oncoming traffic. When you see them coming at you covered in snow while your vehicle has been relatively dry you can be assured you are going into snow.

Today we traveled through Tennessee on I-40 from Memphis toward Nashville. The forecasts have been for rain and freezing rain turning to ice. Looking at the outside mirror on my side it wasn’t freezing yet.


When it is safe for you to do so, look at the outside mirror housing and bracket of big trucks as they pass you, or coming at you from the opposite direction if they are close enough.


The left of the two photos is the mirror bracket. The top and bottom brackets hold the mirror to the truck’s frame or door. This piece is metal, usually aluminum. Metal will get colder more quickly than the plastic housing of standard car and pickup truck mirrors.

The trucks are higher than the cars and are in the slip stream or air currents more than cars are. This means the aluminum is exposed to the cold air more than you are. When the outside air temperatures are freezing, or below, you will see a rim of ice form on the metal bracket. Wet snow and rainy conditions can cause the mirror bracket to have an ice build up of nearly half an inch.

The photo on the right in the above picture is the mirror housing. In big trucks there are electric bundles to power the mirrors to adjust. There is also a heating element in the housing to keep the mirrors dry. The electricity used to power each component does not give off heat.

Like the metal brackets the mirror housing, although plastic, is in the wind. Ice will build up on the housing. Sometimes just on the leading edge and other times the entire piece will be covered in a thick coat of ice or snow.

When you see the build up increasing as you are passed by big trucks it is time to begin thinking about getting off the road. In some cases it may already be too late.

If you have to drive in freezing conditions give the vehicle in front of you lots of room. Maybe now would be a good time to remind you of the “Three Second Rule”.

As the back end of the vehicle in front of you passes a bridge abutment, speed limit sign, or exit marker sign begin counting ….. one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand. If the hood of your vehicle reaches the bridge abutment, or speed limit sign you used as a marker, BEFORE you can count to three one thousand back off. Slow down until you safely count to three one thousand at the next marker.

You have a choice. Drive safely and arrive at your destination a little ticked at me for slowing you down. Or find yourself waiting in the median or in the trees, in a very cold vehicle, while you wait for the tow truck to get you hauled out and the ambulance to carry you to a hospital.

I can live with you being PO’d at me. I see way too many wrecks. I seriously don’t want to pass you all wadded up somewhere on the roads I travel.

Drive safely. You have a spouse or significant other waiting at home for a hug and some love to shower you with. You might also have some children that are waiting to hear your voice as you read the bed time story to them.



About Message In A Fold

I am an over the road truck driver in Drive-Away Transport part of the year, and the sole bookkeeper of this operation the other part of the year. I do a lot of whining until I can get in my craft room and play with paper and glue. View all posts by Message In A Fold

6 responses to “A little clue to look for when traveling toward icy conditions.

  • gardenpinks

    Far too many people don’t drive to suit the road conditions – idiots that drive far too fast on icy roads or in fog/low cloud situations because they can. At the moment we are in a freezing zone! We had a little snow on Sunday which fast melted away on Monday and then everything froze up solid so our part of the driveway/track is like a skating rink although the main track is not so bad. We have had freezing temperatures every night and hardly any day time thaw and now there is a nasty snow storm on its way for the early hours of Friday morning – how much we get remains to be seen! Let us hope this freezing/snowy weather system does not last long.
    Keep warm and safe )
    Love and hugs
    Lynn xx

    • Message In A Fold

      Brrr brrr. Sounds like it is weather not fit for man nor beast. All of your fireplaces are ready to be lit to warm your house I would think. I think I remember you saying your house doesn’t have central heating. Or is that just a figment of my imagination?

      So sorry to bring this up. When you talk of bad weather and fog I am reminded of your Katie and your Cherry, I think that was your horse’s name. Katie accompanying you on your cold trek to feed and check on your horse. Listening for her in the fog as she comes to find you.

      On to your comment. Yes the drivers of our roads are scary. Not all of them but enough of them are. Following too closely and driving too fast. Texting or messing with their phones while driving and the makeup application via the rear view mirrors. What the heck are people thinking? False security in their vehicles and their ability to drive. Asinine is what it is.

      Stay warm you two. Love you guys – Leslie

      • gardenpinks

        No it isn’t a figment of your imagination Leslie – we don’t have central heating and even with the fires all lit it can still be darn cold – brrrrrrrr. Worse when feeling under the weather, I am running a temperature at the moment so am shivering with cold one moment and over hot the next! Hey ho, it will soon pass.
        Yes again you are right – Cherry was the horse, it is two years all ready since she died, unbelievable how fast time goes. Katie I do miss dreadfully, such a gap in our lives and she helped keep me fit as I had to go for walks with her 🙂
        Love and hugs
        Lynn xx

      • Message In A Fold

        Ohhh, my friend. I am so sorry to hear you have become ill :-(. I will refrain from advising a hot toddy since you abhor whiskey.

        How long does a fire last? I’ve only been around campfires and they were always doused long before the logs became embers. I suppose you have to continuously add wood to keep it going during the daytime. How do you bank it at bed time? Do you have to get up during the night to add wood? How the heck do you keep up with it all?!

        2 years you say. It has gone so quickly. I can’t believe it.

        Get well my friend

        Love you – Leslie

  • gardenpinks

    The fire lasts as long as wood/coal is put on 🙂 It all depends on how cold it is on whether we have the open fire going in the daytime but we tend to let it go out at night and relight the following day unless there is a big enough piece of wood on there that smoulders away overnight and just needs a few sticks to bring it back to life again the next day. The Rayburn on the other hand – the one that heats the kitchen, provides hot water and cooking facilities – is going from early morning till bedtime. The Rayburn has been converted to burn waste motor oil so we don’t keep it going overnight as it is difficult to regulate the temperature and we would hate it to suddenly soar so high it shattered the Rayburn which is built from Cast Iron. When we burnt just wood on it then we would bank it up well before going to bed and Rod would ‘feed’ it in the night when he did his nightly bathroom runs!!

    I am not really so ill just trying to fight off a head cold which leaves me with pounding headaches and shivering bouts – think my immune system is very good so it tends to fight this bugs well but sometimes actually having the bug and getting it over with is better than constantly having your body in battle 🙂

    Love and hugs
    Lynn xx

    • Message In A Fold

      Thanks for telling me about your fireplaces and your Rayburn. Since you mentioned the Rayburn I do remember you telling me about it a couple winters earlier.

      Have you had any contact from the estate agents? I know you said they were going to start really pushing your home this spring to get it sold. You two deserve the luxury of rest and comfort.

      Love you – Leslie

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