To drive in snow and ice can be dangerous and one of the most driving perils is black ice. Black ice is a term for ice that is transparent and invisible. Normally you will not know you are on it until you are just a short distance away. If you see cars ahead of you suddenly swerve for no apparent reason, black ice can be the cause. Understanding how to drive on this hazard in the road is very important for you and other drivers that may be around you.
Black Ice is a glaze that forms on the surface of a road, sidewalk and driveways at just about the freezing point. I usually occurs from a light freezing rain, refreezing of snow or water on the surface. It is clear and not easy to detect in advance and can form from the heat of tires on the road.
The most common times of formation is at night or early morning when the temps are lower or on a cloudy day. Look for this along tree lined roads, near rivers, tunnels and roads that do not have much traffic. It can also be found on bridges and overpasses from the cold air cooling both over and under the bridge or overpass.
In the right conditions you may be able to see the black ice before you head onto it. It is very smooth and sometimes glossy. Watch the road and if you see a change in the color of a patch ahead of you slow down and proceed with caution.
If you have ever hydroplaned on a wet road, this is close to what your experience would be on black ice. Just like most kids learning to drive, many were taught by mom and dad in a big empty parking lot. It would not be a bad idea to find one that has the black ice so you could practice braking, and driving your way through to understand what it is like. If you know someone that is familiar with driving, even better to take them with you. Get to know how your vehicle will react in this situation and doing this in a controlled environment is much safer then finding out when you are with other cars around you.
If you come upon Black Ice stay calm and turn on your hazard lights if you can. Try to let you vehicle pass over the ice and do not hit the brakes. Try to keep the steering wheel as straight as possible very gently. Don’t struggle against the steering if you feel the back of your vehicle fishtailing, going left to right turn the wheel in the same direction as the fishtail so that you do not skid or spin out.
Look for an empty field, soft snowbank or a yard if you can slowly steer you vehicle into that. Remember do not hit the brakes.
Winter on the road can be hazardous, drive slower then usual on heavy snow days or in freezing weather.
This short video offers advice on what to do when you are driving on black ice.
Photo Courtesy of Dr Joseph Valks at FreeDigitalPhotos.net