Black ice is defined as a nearly transparent film of ice on a dark surface (such as a paved road) that is difficult to see. Black ice is almost perfectly clear… it often has no trapped air bubbles and no swirls. It’s only black because you can see the pavement surface underneath.
Black ice forms when the air temperature is warmer than the pavement. This can occur when it is raining or as slowly melting snow seeps back onto the pavement and the water refreezes on the roadway. Black ice forms more quickly on bridges, overpasses, and shaded areas of the roadway. It is especially dangerous due to its transparency… it may just look like a wet patch of road until you drive over it.
"Black ice forms more quickly on bridges, overpasses and shaded areas of the roadway. It is especially dangerous due to its transparency."
The following tips are designed to help you to identify when roadways are more likely to be icy and what steps you can take if you find yourself driving over black ice during wintery conditions:
- Pay attention to your area’s weather forecast. Try using 511, the national travelers’ resource system. 511 is an easy-to-remember telephone number that provides current information about road and travel conditions nationwide.
- Watch your temperature gauge. Ice is most slippery when temperatures are in the range of 26°F to 32°F and is much-less slippery when temperatures reach the single digits and below.
- Check your outside mirror supports, corners of the windshield, wiper blades and any external antennae for ice formation. Ice forming in those areas is a good indication that the roadways could be icing up.
- Pay attention to any water spray coming off other vehicles. If it suddenly stops, then the roads may be getting icy. Slow down, especially on bridges and overpasses and in tunnels.
- Do not use cruise control or engine brake on icy roadways. These actions can cause the driving wheels to skid on slippery surfaces. Leave plenty of room between your vehicle and other vehicles and don’t travel in a pack.
- Refrain from using your brakes on ice to avoid skidding. Make turns as gently as possible and avoid sharp steering corrections.
- If you do find yourself driving over black ice, stay calm and do not overreact. Hold the wheel firm and steady, remove your foot from the accelerator, and do not jam on the brakes.
- Use good judgment when driving in icy conditions. If road conditions are severe, find a place to exit the road until conditions improve. If possible, avoid stopping on the shoulder of the road.
All drivers are encouraged to make safe decisions about when and where to shut down when weather conditions become too hazardous to continue to drive. No driving activity is worth risking your life or the lives of others around you.
Always remember… safety first!