Contrary to its name, black ice is actually transparent. It blends into the pavement, so unsuspecting drivers and pedestrians may easily lose control when passing over it. The slippery surface is a common cause of car accidents throughout the winter season.
Why Black Ice Is Dangerous
Black ice forms like any other type: Moisture from sleet, snow or ice that has melted freezes and hardens upon impact, creating a glossy glaze over the road. While some types of ice have bubbles near the surface and a cloudy appearance, that’s not the case with black ice.
As such, it’s hard to detect with the naked eye and typically does not become apparent until a motorist starts to slide or lose traction with the road. Within this framework, black ice is more likely to form under certain conditions:
- On highways, when the air temperature is below freezing but the heat of tires prevents any precipitation from fully hardening.
- Early in the morning or evening, when temperatures are still fairly low and the sun has not yet risen or has just set.
- On dark portions of the road that are not exposed to much sun, such as below trees, under a bridge or through a tunnel.
- On roads that don’t get significant traffic.
- When it’s raining in freezing conditions.
- On bridges and below overpasses, where cold air cools the top and base of the road.
Although you’re more likely to encounter black ice in the above conditions, always keep your eyes peeled for very glossy sections of pavement this time of year.
How to Handle Black Ice
As a general rule of thumb, stay calm when you have hit a patch of black ice. An anti-lock brake system (ABS) can help you stop and steer the vehicle more effectively, provided you keep the brake pedal depressed and do not pump the brakes. Under severe conditions when the entire road is covered with ice, all four wheels may lock simultaneously.
For vehicles without ABS, pump the brakes lightly and take your foot off accelerator. As you’re passing over black ice:
- Gently turn the steering wheel in the direction you’re going; turning it the opposite direction increases your chances of skidding or spinning out.
- Decelerate and apply pressure to the brakes. With ABS, the brakes will pump as you skid.
- Look ahead for areas of traction, such as salted or sanded pavement.
- If your car travels off the road, try to steer away from objects that will cause damage.
How can you prepare for and avoid black ice?
1. Always Be On the Lookout
Listen to the weather forecast before hitting the road, so you can anticipate precipitation and freezing conditions. As you’re out on the road, look ahead for any glossy, shiny patches and take particular care around bridges and overpasses.
Also pay attention to the cars in front of you. When water sprays away from their tires, the road has not frozen over yet. If you see slick pavement but no spray and vehicles ahead fishtailing, be prepared to possibly drive over black ice.
2. Get Some Practice
Unfortunately, many people do not know how to handle slippery road conditions until they’re driving over black ice. Especially if you live in New England, consider taking a winter driving course to learn how to safely navigate these inclement situations.
3. Try to Limit Driving on Black Ice
It’s always better to wait to travel when you suspect the roads could be icy. Avoid going out when the conditions are treacherous or pull over into a rest area until the road is salted. If you have to go out, keep your headlights on and never use cruise control – you need to be on high alert to handle black ice.
4. Check Your Car and Stay Safe
If you have to go out when it’s snowing or freezing rain, perhaps for work, make sure you:
- Clean all snow and debris from your windshield to keep your field of view completely open.
- Check your tire treads for signs of wear. Without sufficient treads, your tires have less grip and traction.
- Travel at a slow speed once you’re out on the road.
- Avoid tailgating other drivers.
Drivers who do not decrease speed or tailgate other cars during winter weather could easily rear-end another motorist, hit a pedestrian or cause extensive property damage. If you’ve found yourself the victim in this situation, bring your claim to the car accident lawyers at Trantolo & Trantolo. For more information, give us a call today.