What To Do If You Hit Black Ice

It is a brisk winter’s day. You are driving along fine, the road seems clear….then the unthinkable happens….you lose control of your vehicle! You have hit BLACK ICE! Black ice should be called “clear ice.” It is virtually transparent, though pavement covered with black ice will appear darker than the rest of the road surface.
Black ice can form any time the temperature is below 35 degrees Fahrenheit. Stopping takes five times longer than in normal conditions. Studded tires and snow chains help slightly, four‐wheel drive does not. Good winter driving habits include:

‐ Assume a wet area is black ice if the temperature is near or below freezing. Salt loses its effectiveness at about 15 degrees.

‐ Drive slower.

‐ Be particularly wary of bridges and shaded road sections.

‐ Do not use cruise control in icy conditions.

‐ Increase your following distance.

‐ Check your tire tread. Worn tread means little to no traction on black ice.

‐ Keep your headlights on at all times; this helps you see the sheen from black ice,
and helps others see you.

‐ Keep your windshield clear. Use a scraper, not your wipers.

‐ Use your defroster or turn on your air conditioning to keep your windshield

‐ Be aware ‐ if you think there may be black ice ahead, downshift to a lower gear before you hit the ice. The lower gear will give you better control of your vehicle.

If you hit black ice:

‐ As soon as your car begins to slide, take your foot off the gas pedal.

‐ Make no sudden movements.

‐ Do not slam on the brakes; tap your brakes lightly to slow the vehicle.

‐ Keep steering to a minimum. Stay as straight as possible.

‐ Head for dry pavement.

As a rule: do as little as possible; allow the car to pass over the ice. Black ice patches usually are not longer than 20 feet.

If you lose control:

‐ Stay calm.

‐ Use the minimum amount of braking possible: with Anti‐lock braking system (ABS), put your foot on the brake, apply firm pressure and the car will pump the brakes for you as you skid. No ABS? Pump the brakes gently until you stop.

‐ Steer the car in the direction you want the car to go, preferably to the side of the road, an empty field or a fluffy snow bank.

‐ After the black ice encounter, stay calm. If you continue driving, drive slowly and use your emergency flashers.

Practice. Find a large, empty icy parking lot. Drive, slide, brake. Know how your car reacts in these conditions.

Ice is a walking hazard! Walk slowly in icy winter conditions. Plant each foot firmly with each step. Hold on to railings. TLS/NASA-Submitted.

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  1. Great, informative article. Now can you give directions on how to use a turn signal, not talk on the phone while driving, drive without cutting anyone off, etc? Juding from the driving around here, no one knows how to do those things either

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