Winter driving can be challenging for many different reasons but black ice brings about some of the worst driving conditions of them all. It can be almost invisible on the road, often making it a very dangerous surprise. If you do live in an area that gets to below freezing temperatures, read these tips to stay safe when driving on black ice.
Avoid It All Together If You Can
The best way to safely drive on black ice is not to do it at all. If you know there are icy conditions on the roads, do your best to avoid traveling . According to data from the NOAA, between 1996 and 2011, an average of 817 people die every year from winter driving accidents. Losing control of your vehicle on ice can have deadly consequences, so if you can avoid it at all, it’s best to do so.
However, there are some times when travelling even under icy conditions is either unavoidable or unpredictable. Black ice’s biggest weapon is the fact that it can be nearly invisible. This means that even if you think there is no ice on the road, black ice can sneak up on you. If you’re driving in below freezing temperatures, the first thing you can do to stay safe is to learn how to identify black ice on the road.
Know How to Identify Black Ice
Black ice is just regular ice, which means it’s clear. This is why it’s so dangerous. It’s called black ice because it tends to blend in right over the road and therefore you can’t tell it’s even there. This makes it very difficult and sometimes even impossible to detect in advance. What you can do is learn where to expect it. It usually forms at night or during the early hours of the morning when temperatures are at their lowest. It also forms most frequently in areas that receive little or no sun during the day, such as shady tree covered lanes or tunnels. Bridges, overpasses, and the roads underneath overpasses are also prone to black ice.
Keep your eyes out for patches of road that look shiny or more glossy than normal. In warmer temperatures, these patches might just be puddles of rain, but when the temps drop they can quickly turn to ice. If the rest of the road looks dull and part of it looks shiny, you’re very likely about to come in contact with black ice.
If you have to drive under these icy conditions, give yourself a lot of extra distance between other vehicles. Keep an eye out for vehicles sliding around or swerving out in front of you. If you see this happening, it’s best to let your car naturally come safely to a stop without hitting the brakes and get to a safe area out of the way, which is why extra distance between cars is very necessary.
Practice In A Parking Lot
One of the best ways to learn how to handle driving on ice is to practice! Many times if the roads have been cleared of ice, parking lots have not. This is a great time to find an empty parking lot somewhere to practice handling your vehicle on ice. If you can, bring someone with you who is a seasoned driver that can give you tips. You’ll be able to learn what ABS feels like, as well as get a feel for how to steer when your car is sliding.
Braking is your worst enemy on ice and is the best way to lose control of your vehicle. Even if your car has ABS, you’re still likely to do some sliding. If you come in contact with ice on the road do not slam on your brakes. This is yet again why it’s so important to give yourself tons of space between you and the vehicle in front of you. If one person slams on their brakes and spins out and the person behind them does the same, this can quickly turn into a big accident, sometimes with fatal conditions.
Whenever possible, just let your vehicle naturally come to a stop on it’s own. Try to aim for areas with more traction like snow or textured ice. You can shift into a lower gear as well if possible for more control. If you absolutely must brake and you do not have ABS, make sure to pump your brakes. This means tapping your foot on the brake pedal to avoid making your brakes lock up.
Let Your Car Do The Work & Remain Calm
The less you do while driving on ice the better. Try to drive in a straight line and keep a firm grip on the steering wheel. Hopefully you have tires that have some decent traction to them and will help your car going where you want. Stay at a nice slow pace, and remember to most importantly remain calm. Freaking out can lead to rash decisions that can have very bad outcomes. If you start skidding out and are about to go off of the road, try to aim for open areas like a level field or a snowbank.
If you follow all of our tips, you’re much more likely to make it through black ice safely. If the situation does come up that requires you to abandon your vehicle on the side of the road until it’s safe to drive again, make sure you’re ready for a cold journey home by reading these general winter driving tips.
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