Drivers expect that snow and ice may cause hazards on the road for which they must prepare, but many motorists forget about the insidious nature of black ice. Black ice makes roads slick, does not appear to the naked eye at first glance, and creates one of the most dangerous conditions that a driver may find on any thoroughfare during the winter season. Fearing black ice while driving will only increase anxiety and cause drivers to make poor decisions that may endanger themselves and others. Learning about the formation of black ice and how to navigate around it without engaging in a crash will keep you and other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians safe.
How, When, and Where Black Ice Forms
Frigid temperatures and precipitation, such as sleet and rain, create black ice. Wet surfaces may refreeze or become frozen overnight due to the lowered temperatures. Black ice commonly forms around sunrise and sunset. Car exhaust may also contribute to the formation of black ice. During the day, temperatures may rise, but a drop overnight virtually guarantees the presence of black ice.
Black ice can be found in shady areas, such as driveways lined with or roads surrounded by trees, even when temperatures rise. Other common places to find black ice are bridges, overpasses, and tunnels. It forms first on these structures and remains despite slight warm-ups. The lack of sun adds to the recipe of black ice.
How to Drive on Black Ice
Before driving in inclement conditions, check the weather and consult traffic reports to determine how the commute may be. Remember that early in the morning, you may experience black ice, so adjust your driving to accommodate the adverse conditions. Allow a five-second stopping distance between your car and other vehicles. Drive slowly and use caution when driving over bridges, through tunnels, and any shaded surface.
If you drive over a patch of black ice and feel the car sliding, remain calm. Avoid slamming on the brakes and slowly lift your foot off the accelerator. Keep a firm and steady grip on the steering wheel at all times.