Black Ice: How to spot this winter driving danger

Of all the driving dangers that motorists face during the wintertime, black ice is arguably the most hazardous. This is largely because black ice cannot be seen easily and can cause any vehicle to slip or slide out of control.

“Because it is smooth and transparent, it appears the same colour as the road below,” say the RAC. “Black ice can be almost invisible to drivers, which makes it particularly dangerous.”

So, how can you spot this winter driving danger? And what should you do if your car hits a patch of black ice?

The conditions of black ice

According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Andrew Mussoline, black ice forms when air temperatures reach freezing at the surface. When rain begins to fall, the ground temperature causes the precipitation to freeze upon impact, which in turn creates ice.

Sleet and the refreezing of snow or water is also known to generate black ice. But because the ice is clear and looks like the rest of the road or pavement, it can be incredibly difficult to spot. This is what gives black ice its name as well.

Spotting black ice

Seeing as black ice tends to blend in with its surroundings, you need to use your instincts and initiative to spot this danger. For example, if your car features an outside temperature reading that is close to freezing, you should take extra care while driving.

Even so, the placement of temperature sensors on several cars isn’t always reliable, as they are often placed behind the front bumper and can pick up heat from the car’s engine. Furthermore, sensors can read lower if they are hit with rainwater, which then evaporates while travelling at high speeds.

Therefore, you should always check the weather and temperature before heading out the door. Also be aware that black ice tends to develop in the late evening when temperatures are at their lowest.

Although the RAC says you may see black ice glinting in the sunlight, it advises to be “particularly cautious on shaded stretches of road, bridges, flyovers and tunnels – anywhere the surface temperature may be lower, in fact. Quiet roads are also more likely to be affected.”

Driving on black ice

As opposed to driving on snow, where car tyres can often find enough grip to pull away and steer, black ice offers no traction whatsoever. As a result, you are somewhat at the mercy of your vehicle until it passes over the ice.

Advice from the RAC states: “If you hit a patch of black ice, don’t panic. Keep the steering wheel straight and maintain your speed – don’t hit the brakes. Use the gears to slow down if necessary, but avoid any sudden movements that could destabilise the car.”

While county councils attempt to disperse black ice by gritting major roads at night, some businesses and rural areas don’t receive coverage. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t hesitate to contact us at De-Ice.