Walking on ice is dicey. One minute you’re upright and the next, you’re sliding toward home on your tush — if you’re lucky. (If you’re unlucky, you’ll land on something less cushioned.)

Slipping is no joke. According to the Workers Compensation Fund, slips, trips and falls are second only to traffic accidents as the cause of accidental deaths in the United States. Snowy, icy sidewalks and parking lots were the culprit in 80 percent of these incidents. 

How can you safely cross an icy divide without going “thud” or “crack”? Follow these tips.

Be an Ice Warrior

  • View sidewalks and parking lots as the enemy. A sidewalk or parking can be clear of snow, but still have a layer of translucent ice. Assume that any wet surface could bring you down and move cautiously. If a sidewalk looks icy, head for the grass for more traction. 
  • Head south. If you have a choice, walk on the southern side of the path. North-facing spots stay icy longer.
  • Stay hands free. If you start to fall, you’ll want your hands ready. Invest in a pair of gloves that keep your hands toasty warm so you’re not tempted to tuck them in your pockets. 
  • Swab the deck. Once inside, take off your boots so you don’t create a slippery floor. And watch out for slick spots others may have created. 

Related: How to Shovel Snow Without Ending Up in the ER 

Arm Yourself with Protection

  • Wear sticky shoes. Invest in a pair of low, wide-heeled shoes with thick-tread soles made of rubber or neoprene composite. Skip the plastic and leather soles, which provide no traction. For an even surer step, buy ice grippers that slip over your shoes or boots, available online or at sporting goods stores. Regularly remove sticking ice and snow from them so they don’t pose their own hazard. 
  • Prop yourself up. You may not ordinarily use a cane, but ones with an ice pick on the end can help you balance on slippery surfaces. You can find them online and at drugstores. 
  • Stay puffed. Wear a bulky coat to cushion some of the blow if you do fall. You can also try hip protectors, pads that slip into your pants or are worn as a belt. They’re available online or at big box stores. 
  • Sport sunglasses. The snow’s white glare can be blinding; seeing clearly can help you avoid slippery spots.
  • Get gritty. Really want to avoid falling? Carry a small bag of sand, grit or non-clumping kitty litter to sprinkle when you encounter icy spots. 

Walk This Way

  • Walk like a penguin. Spread your feet. This broadens your base, making it harder to fall. Bend your knees slightly to lower your center of gravity. And put your arms out to your sides for balance.
  • Do the slow shuffle. If you can’t bring yourself to do the Penguin, keep feet about a foot apart, and take small, shuffling steps, aligning your feet after each step. Keep your pace slow.
  • Take stair steps one at a time. Whether you’re going up or down icy steps, test the handrail and then make sure to plant both feet on a step before moving to the next one.
  • Fall like a pro. If you’re about to go down lean forward so the back of your head and spine don’t hit the pavement. Try to fall on your thigh, hip and shoulder, not on your easily broken arms, knees, wrists or spine. And hard as it may be, relax your muscles as you fall. You’ll be less likely to get hurt. 

Related: Prepare Your House for Winter Storms

Dorothy Foltz-Gray is an award-winning health writer and author of "Make Pain Disappear" (Reader’s Digest Health Publishing) and "Alternative Treatments for Arthritis" (Arthritis Foundation).