Posted in: Safety,
by Gregg Laskoski on Jan 25, 2014 06:00 AM
It's never too late for an ounce of prevention...
NHTSA wants you to remember when you're driving that black ice is like regular ice. It is a glaze that forms on surfaces (especially roads, sidewalks, and driveways) because of a light freezing rain or because of melting and re-freezing of snow, water, or ice on surfaces.
It's called "black ice" because it tends to look like the rest of the pavement on the road, although in reality, it's actually clear. Black ice forms without creating bubbles, which allows it to blend in with any surface it forms over. It's dangerous precisely because it's hard to detect in advance. But, there are helpful tips to keep in mind...
Sometimes in frigid weather conditions on highways, black ice will form due to the heat of tires on the road coupled with the freezing temperature.
•Black ice forms most commonly at night or in the early morning when the temperatures are at their lowest, or when the sun isn't around to warm the roads.
•Black ice tends to form on parts of the road without much sunshine, such as along a tree-lined route or a tunnel. It will also form more frequently on roads that are less traveled on.
•Black ice forms readily on bridges, overpasses and the road beneath overpasses. This is because the cold air is able to cool both the top and under the bridge or overpass, bringing about faster freezing.
While black ice is transparent, it can sometimes be seen in the right lighting conditions - if you are looking for it. Black ice almost always forms in very smooth, very glossy sheets. This glossy surface is your indication of potential black ice. If the majority of the road you're driving on appears a dull black color, but the patch just ahead of you appears shiny, you may be about to drive onto black ice - don't panic.
If you do hit black ice, your first reaction must be to remain calm and avoid overreacting. The general rule is to do as little as possible and allow the car to pass over the ice. Do not hit the brakes, and try to keep the steering wheel straight. If you feel the back end of your car sliding left or right, make a very gentle turn of the steering wheel in the same direction. If you try to struggle against it by steering in the opposite direction, you risk skidding or spinning out.
Slow down by de-accelerating. Lift your feet off the accelerator completely and keep your steering wheel fixed in the position it's in. Slowing down will give you more control and prevent needless damage. Do not touch the brakes. Doing so will likely cause you to skid. The idea is to slide over the ice in the direction the steering wheel is facing; usually black ice patches aren't longer than 20 feet.
Where possible, head for areas of traction. Black ice is virtually invisible, but you may be able to head towards areas of pavement that offer more traction. Such areas of traction may include textured ice, snow-covered areas, spots with sand, etc.