How can you protect yourself from this hidden winter hazard?
Thousands of injuries and fatalities occur every year from accidents on snowy or icy roads, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Many drivers are unaware of a common culprit in many of these crashes – black ice. So what is black ice? It is a transparent glaze that forms without bubbles, allowing it to easily blend into the surface of the roads.
Black ice is most likely to form when there is a sudden temperature drop, such as in the early morning and evening hours. Common problem areas are bridges, overpasses, and shaded areas of the road. These areas have much colder surfaces that rapidly freeze when air moisture makes contact – especially if they’re near lakes or rivers.
How to Prepare for Winter Driving
Use these tips to prepare your vehicle for driving on black ice or unexpected icy conditions:
- Winter Tires. Switch out your standard tires to winter tires once the temperatures start to drop. If your vehicle is regularly exposed to driving in snowy and icy condition, the grip and handling provided by these weather-specific tires will be better than all-season tires.
- Slow Down. When conditions exist for an increased possibility of black ice, exhibit caution by driving slower than the posted speed limit and extending your braking distance. This could give you more time to react calmly if you’re caught on black ice.
Learn Possible Warning Signs Of Black Ice
When favorable conditions are present, be on high alert. Black ice looks a lot like wet blacktop. Other indicators include:
- Absence of water spray on a seemingly wet road
- Cars suddenly swerving or skidding
- Brake lights ahead
- Cars or tire tracks in the ditch
- Shiny surfaces next to a dull black
Ways to React When You Encounter Black Ice
If you’re caught driving on black ice, use these tips to maneuver past the problem area:
- Do nothing. Avoid making sudden moves or turning the wheel. Smoothly lift your foot off the accelerator and glide across the ice in a straight line until you find traction.
- Shift. If possible, slowly shift to a lower gear for added control.
- Brake wisely. If you begin to skid, firmly press on your brakes to activate the anti-lock brake system (ABS). Or, if you don’t have ABS, pump the brakes gently.
- Avoid spinout. If your front end is sliding, steer in the opposite direction of the skid; if the back end is sliding, steer in the same direction.
- Look toward where you want to go. If you look where you think you might crash, then you might inadvertently veer the car in that direction.