Black Ice – Know the Facts

Winter in New England can bring us treacherous driving conditions.  We can see the 1ft of snow outside when we get a big snow storm and can be prepared.  However, we don’t always know if there is black ice on the roads.  Black ice is not actually black, it is clear so you can’t see it on the roads.  It gets its name from its ability to blend into its surroundings.  Black ice has less water bubbles in it making it harder to spot.  It could look like wet spots on the road.

Black ice forms when snow or ice melts then refreezes.  This can happen with fluctuations in temperature in the winter.  It could be very sunny during the day and the snow melts.  Then at night into early morning the puddles of water from the melting snow freeze.  Black ice can also form when it’s raining out and the temperature is below 32 degrees.  The most common areas for black ice are shaded areas, bridges and back roads.

Here are a few tips on handling black ice while driving:

  • Have good tires on your vehicle with excellent treads.  Winter tires are the best.
  • Drive slowly in uncertain road conditions.
  • If you hit a patch of black ice decelerate, take your foot off the gas.
  • Never slam on your breaks when you hit ice.
  • Do not pump the brakes if you have anti-lock breaks, the breaking system pumps them for you.
  • Do not jerk the wheel just keep your car pointed in the direction you want to go.
  • If you start skidding on the ice gently steer into the skid.
  • If your car starts to lose control head for an area of traction like grass or snow.

Black ice is very deceptive.  The best way to handle black ice in the winter is to be prepared for it.  Watch the weather and temperature outside.  And most importantly drive slowly!