Driving on black ice

Black ice is difficult to distinguish 22nd October 2014

Driving when there is black ice on the roads tends to be even more dangerous than motoring in icy conditions, largely due to the fact that with black ice, drivers are often not aware it is present until they drive over it. 

Black ice gets its name because – due to the way it freezes – it contains fewer air bubbles, meaning that it is often indistinguishable from the road or pavement around it, and drivers do not know to avoid it. 

If a vehicle is driven over black ice it will often start to skid and slide out of control, potentially causing serious damage to the car, and injury to those inside it.

During wintry weather conditions, drivers should always be extra careful on the roads – but a thermometer can be used to help gauge whether the temperature is low enough for black ice to be present. 

While a characteristic of black ice is that it is particularly difficult to spot, it is worth noting that it is most often found in areas close to bodies of water, so if you’re driving near a river or reservoir, extra vigilance is required. 

So, how can you lessen your chance of skidding on this dangerous ice?

  • Drive slowly! This might sound obvious, but driving more slowly can be the difference between a minor skid and a collision should you encounter a patch of black ice.
  • Move down to a lower gear. If you know there is black ice up ahead and you are forced to drive across it, shift down to a lower gear before you motor onto the ice. 
  • Don’t slam the brakes on. If you hit black ice, your natural instinct is likely to be slamming your foot down on the brake pedal. Don’t! Suddenly putting the brakes on is likely to exacerbate the situation, seeing your car slide even more out of control. The best thing to do is actually to lightly tap the brake pedal. 
  • Take your foot off the accelerator. While you don’t want to suddenly brake, you also definitely want to slow down. As soon as you feel your car skidding, take your foot off the gas.

Posted by Danielle Barge