Winter Driving’s Biggest Danger – Black Ice

Winter driving is hazardous enough, even before black ice gets thrown into the mix.

Arguably one of the worst dangers that drivers face in the winter, black ice cannot be seen easily and can be almost invisible to the human eye. Black ice appears to be the same colour as the road beneath because it’s smooth and transparent.

So, how can you identify and react well to this danger?

Uncovering the Invisible

Even though black ice is basically invisible, there are some ways to assume that this danger is present. Black ice is likely to form when the air is at 32 degrees or below at the surface and rain is falling. With the ground temperature being so cold, the rain freezes upon impact, thus creating the treacherous ice.

Sleet and the refreezing of snow or water can also create black ice. Having a car thermometer that reads the air’s ambient temperature can help the driver know when to be extra cautious on the road, although it is not fully reliable. The best way to keep track of the temperature is by checking the weather and temperature before getting behind the wheel.

During daylight, check for black ice by looking for dark and glossy spots on an otherwise dry pavement. Drivers should be especially cautious at dawn and in the late evening because this is when temperatures are normally the lowest.

Another tip is to remain extra alert while driving through the most common locations for black ice to form. Shaded areas, such as tree-covered driveways and roadways, as well as bridges, tunnels, and overpasses are the most common locations. There’s a greater chance of black ice affecting roads that are less travelled on.

Driving on Black Ice

Driving on black ice is similar to driving on snow, with the biggest difference being the amount of traction that the vehicle maintains. Although car tires in snow allow for some traction, black ice does not at all. Because of this, drivers are basically at the mercy of their vehicle until the black ice is behind them. Following the advice below can keep drivers as safe as possible during this timeframe:

  1. Remain calm and let your vehicle pass over the black ice.
  2. Do not hit the brakes. Lift your foot off the accelerator. Use the gears to slow down if necessary, but avoid any sudden movements that could make your car less stable.
  3. Keep the steering wheel straight. Let your car slide over the ice. Usually, black ice patches aren’t longer than six metres.
  4. If your car starts to slide, take care to not overcorrect your steering.

Prevent encounters with black ice by practicing safe driving tips such as: travelling slowly, avoiding tailgating, keeping your windshield clear, buying proper tires and turning your headlights on in early afternoon to spot any possible shiny patches. Also, never drive with active cruise control in potentially icy conditions.

Remember, if an accident were to happen, Waterdown Collision is here to help.